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Blame game won't solve energy crisis

POSTED: August 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Americans are feeling pain at the gas pumps. This fact is not lost on lawmakers at any level. We are seeing some of the highest prices on gasoline and crude oil that we've ever seen in this country and no one is happy about it. American families are suffering from these high prices. But what is truly disappointing about the current discussion on energy is that our leaders in Washington, DC, have chosen to point fingers rather than seek solutions; they've flirted with policies that will only cause more pain at the pump and drive energy prices even higher. They are playing the blame game across the country ... in the media and in Congress, and American citizens are suffering for it.
Some want to blame the oil companies. And with record high profits, a company like Exxon-Mobil is an easy target. But what many people don't acknowledge is that the oil companies are spending much of this profit on research. This includes research in fuel alternatives and other technologies, such as ethanol from more diverse feedstock, hydrogen and hybrid technologies. Congress' latest efforts to implement windfall profit taxation will only continue to put upward pressure on the marketplace. This will lead to the consumer paying the extra tax on each gallon he or she buys, and we will still have a energy crisis in America, only much worse than today.
Others have been pointing the finger at the oil futures markets and speculators. Futures markets are not the reason for high energy prices.  These markets bring order to world markets by creating liquidity in the marketplace. It's true that speculation is part of the traders' role - they speculate whether prices are going up or going down. So, the policies that the federal government puts in place can either put upward or downward pressure on market pricing. If we move toward over-regulating the marketplace, the consumer will pay the price for the cost of regulation in the long run.
Our country needs a comprehensive energy policy that has a time certain to meeting the energy needs of this nation. An energy policy of less taxation, less regulation, increasing supply and lessening demand on oil supply is the only way to bring prices down. This comprehensive plan should include drilling for more supply. State leaders cannot approve any efforts to build new oil refineries or to explore new options for oil and natural gas, such as making the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) accessible. This must be done by Congress.
This new energy policy should increase nuclear power output, increase alternative fuel production, use solar and wind power advancements and other technologies, and include responsible conservation efforts.  We need a complete energy road map to the future. We need to know that by 2030 this country will have implemented a fully integrated energy strategy to keep us self-sufficient, curtailing our dependence on unstable countries to supply our energy needs. It's time to stop playing the blame game, because in truth, all of our leaders are to blame for $4 a gallon gasoline and high energy prices.
In Georgia, we have talked about energy for the last four years. We have spoken many times about the need to explore and expand our capabilities for nuclear energy. We have worked to make E-85 alternative fuel available to the consumer on the street. We have paved the way for companies like Range Fuels, a cellulosic biofuel manufacturer, to set up shop here. Georgia is now a leading state when it comes to alternative fuel production. It is now time for our leaders in Washington, DC, to step up and lead this nation out of the darkness on energy policy. We need strong leaders to guide us through this period of turmoil. They must be open to all ideas and potential solutions to our energy woes and not rooted in the politics of the issue.

Tolleson serves as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.  He represents the 20th Senate District which includes Bleckley, Dodge, Johnson, Laurens, Pulaski, and Telfair counties and parts of Houston and Wilcox counties.  He may be reached by phone at 404.656.0081 or via e-mail at ross.tolleson@senate.ga.gov.
 

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