Rep. Shuster proposes answers to energy crisis

July 02, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The answer to the crisis of high energy prices facing the nation cannot be solved by drilling for oil alone, but U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster said it is a good place to start.

With a Sheetz sign for gas at $3.99 per gallon as a backdrop, Shuster, R-Pa., announced Tuesday that he has introduced legislation titled the Energy Independence Act that would allow drilling on the continental shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), along with programs to develop alternative energy such as nuclear and wind power and coal liquefaction.

"It's not just about drilling," Shuster said. "It's about all the options we have available to us."

"The energy debate has been so polarized and partisan that it's been pitting investing in domestic oil and gas production against investing in renewable energy," Shuster said. He said increased domestic oil and gas production would provide "short-term to mid-term" relief while renewable energy sources are being developed.


Making a commitment to explore for domestic oil and gas will have an immediate effect on the commodities speculation driving up the price of oil, Shuster said.

"If the world sees America is interested in tapping into these resources, markets will react," he said.

Among the measures called for in Shuster's proposal:

· A competitive oil and gas leasing program for ANWR to bring an additional 1 million barrels of oil on line in less than five years, with strict environmental regulations and a trust fund to direct rents and revenue to alternative and renewable energy programs.

· Opening the outer continental shelf for oil and gas exploration.

· Streamlining the licensing process for nuclear power plants and begin constructing new plants by 2010.

· Tax credits for the development of coal liquefaction.

Bob Cooper of Chambersburg took issue with Shuster's proposals.

"How about taxing the oil companies on their windfall profits?" said Cooper, who also asked about the millions of acres that oil companies already have leased for domestic exploration.

The windfall profit tax of the 1980s did nothing to increase energy supplies and the price was passed on to customers at the pump, Shuster said. Much of the 68 million acres under lease has little or no recoverable oil, otherwise, companies would drill for it, he said.

While oil companies are coming under much criticism for the increase in oil prices, Shuster said 80 percent of the world's oil reserves are controlled by countries, not companies, including companies hostile to U.S. interests.

Shuster, who is being challenged in the November election by Democrat Tony Barr, called it "stupid" not to develop the continental shelf as China, Cuba and Venezuela are planning to do so in international waters 50 miles off the coast of Florida.

Cooper asked about transporting and storing nuclear waste.

Shuster said the French have been using American technology developed in the 1970s to recycle nuclear waste and reduce it by 95 percent.

A federal gas tax holiday would provide only temporary relief that would be erased as crude prices rise, do nothing about short supplies and reduce revenue needed to build and repair roads and bridges, Shuster said.

Congress and successive administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have failed to vote for a comprehensive energy policy for years, Shuster said. With gas, diesel and heating oil prices at current levels, a tipping point might have been reached.

One reason for the bill is to put pressure on the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to act, he said.

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