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The Gift of Life

Time For American Energy Independence

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Amidst a slumping economy, gas prices near $4, continued uncertainty and aggression in the Middle East and an election around the corner, President Obama decided to release 30 million barrels of oil from our strategic oil reserves.

Like many of President Obama’s policies, this was all about show, not substance.

America uses 30 million barrels in just two days. Irresponsibly tapping our reserves won’t make a dent in our long-term energy challenges.

Instead of election year gimmicks, leaders in Washington should finally commit to real American energy independence.

This means a comprehensive policy to stop regulatory hurdles, increase domestic exploration and production, and reduce tax burdens on innovation, all with the goal of ending our dependence on foreign sources of oil once and for all.

First, we have to be realistic about the promise of emerging technologies.

I’ve supported the promise of solar, electric and other emerging technologies, but as part of a broad energy solution, not as a substitute for the reserves and resources already available. Markets, not the government, will decide whether alternate energy approaches can and will work.

Our immediate focus should be on an all-of-the-above approach on what we know works: nuclear, clean coal and increased domestic exploration and production of on and off-shore oil and natural gas. This means getting the Federal government, and its job-killing regulations out of the way.

There’s no better regulation to kill first than cap-and-trade, a costly energy scheme that will lead to sky-rocketing costs.

Here in Florida, Governor Charlie Crist tried to implement a California-style cap-and-trade program through executive orders. Thanks to the leadership of then-Speaker Marco Rubio, and his support for legislation I co-sponsored, we blocked Charlie Crist’s cap-and-trade plan.

President Obama is following the Crist approach, trying to implement cap-and-trade through executive orders and backdoor regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress should move decisively to stop this power grab, and to enact legislation to weaken the EPA’s ability to enact cap-and-trade regulations.

In addition to removing future threats, we need to eliminate current barriers to domestic oil and natural gas production.

After the BP oil spill, typical politicians rushed forward to change their positions on offshore oil drilling and embrace the kneejerk politics of the moment. Fearing the long-term economic consequences, I stood firm, and led the effort to block Charlie Crist’s proposed ban on offshore energy production.

Look what President Obama’s moratorium has done to our economy. A study released earlier this year estimated 13,000 jobs have been lost along the Gulf Coast alone.

Now imagine what increased exploration would do for our economy.

It's estimated there are between 1.6 and 2.8 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and between 7 and 9.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Safely exploring and extracting these resources will create thousands of high wage jobs.

But this isn’t just about dollars and cents, this is about making America stronger and safer. The more energy we produce at home, the less we have to depend on the whims of tyrants and cartels who don’t share our best interests.

Finally, increasing American energy independence requires an end to Federal energy subsidies. The complicated labyrinth of carve-outs and loopholes written into our tax code isn’t working, and costs American taxpayers $18.6 billion a year.

Given the seriousness of our nation’s debt crisis, and ample free-market data showing subsidies have failed, it’s impossible to justify continuing this anti-growth and anti-competitive corporate welfare.

A vote in the Senate to eliminate ethanol subsidies last week was a good first step.

We should eliminate or sunset current subsidies, block new ones and replace them with a flat, low, across-the-board tax structure to spur innovation and job creation in the energy sector.

America and Florida’s energy future is brimming with bright possibilities, we just need to elect people with the common sense to lead us there.

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