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Energy Solutions to Help American Families, Not Hugo Chavez

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

Middle class families fighting to make ends meet aren't seeing too many signs of relief, especially when it comes to energy. With the price of oil topping $101 per barrel last week, skyrocketing gasoline and home-heating bills hit the family budget like new tax increases, so the frustrations felt by American consumers today are both understandable and justified. This is the reality, but we don’t have to sit idly by and accept it.

Unfortunately, some in Washington seem intent on sitting idly by; others still are bent on policies that make matters worse, even though abundant and affordable supplies of energy are critical to our economic and national security, and to every industry, job, and family in America. The last thing we need is higher taxes and more expensive gasoline, to state the obvious.

Yet this week on the House floor, Democratic leaders are giving the American people exactly that: higher taxes and almost assuredly, even higher gasoline prices. The bill up for a House vote would raise taxes on producers of American energy here at home, send good-paying jobs overseas by removing incentives for American manufacturers to invest and grow their businesses, and further increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Even worse, the bill does a favor for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez by exempting his state-owned oil giant CITGO – just as he is threatening to cut off Venezuelan energy supplies to the United States.

In the bill you’ll find new taxes, regulations, and mandates – you’ll even see a giant slush fund for green pork projects to help subsidize hybrid snowmobiles in Aspen, replace police cars in Beverly Hills with Lexus hybrids, or give copies of Al Gore’s movie to give to schoolchildren. Unfortunately, what’s missing from this tax-and-spend monstrosity is a single watt of new domestic energy…a single gallon of new domestic fuel…or a single reform that will lower prices for American consumers.

Access to plentiful energy fueled the industrial revolution and every medical, technological, and societal innovation since. In fact, none of the activities, necessities, and luxuries we enjoy today would be possible without affordable energy. Whether it’s heating or cooling a house, commuting to work, manufacturing and shipping goods, or running schools and hospitals, America depends on energy. That’s precisely why high energy prices act like hidden taxes on American families – when the cost of energy rises, so too does the cost of living.

Unfortunately, we are facing extraordinary competition from nations around the globe. Developing countries such as China, India and Russia have discovered that energy is the key to growth and quality of life. Whether it is oil, natural gas, nuclear or hydro-electric power, these nations are acting aggressively to secure the energy they need to continue their economic growth. And America is being challenged like no other time in our history as a result.

Common sense would dictate that we boost supplies of all forms of energy right here at home to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, create American jobs, and grow our economy. But the majority’s energy legislation fails to produce any new energy for consumers. That means no new American-produced oil, natural gas, or coal; no new nuclear or hydro-electric power; and no new gasoline refineries or power plants.

In fact, the only abundance produced in the majority’s plan are punitive tax policies – wrapped in regulatory red tape – that will restrict access to America’s vast energy resources and discourage every energy investment that does not come in the form of a government grant. In economic terms, that’s called price gouging and market manipulation, and American families will suffer as a result.

In 2006, then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made this election year statement: “Democrats have a commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices.” Two years later, gasoline prices have skyrocketed under Democratic control, increasing from a nationwide average of $2.33 per gallon on the day Rep. Pelosi became Speaker to $3.13 per gallon now.

What my Democratic friends have proposed is not a “new direction” for America’s energy future; it’s the same failed approach that caused long gas lines and rationing in the 1970s. Americans know that Congress must adopt a balanced and achievable policy to put the nation on a path toward energy independence – one that rids them of the periodic price spikes that break their budgets and force them to choose between taking the family to the movies over the weekend and paying the gas bill.

That’s not a choice the American people should have to make, and with the right policies in place in Washington, they wouldn’t have to ever again. Republicans believe a balanced energy plan should boost supplies of American-made energy in all its forms. With 21st century technologies and the strictest standards in the world, we can and must produce more of our own energy right here at home and protect our environment at the same time. We can accomplish both of these important goals, but not by supporting reckless, Big Government tax hikes that jeopardize our energy future and endanger our economy. And not by doing favors for Hugo Chavez.

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