Ripe for energy independence

This week, I pulled up to a gas station pump to fill my car. As I held the hose and watched the numbers on the pump tick higher and higher, I couldn’t help but think of a column I had written several years ago. “In the last couple of weeks it has become less and less surprising that $20 is hardly sufficient to fill your tank at the gas station” I wrote. At that time, the national average at the gas pump was $1.81. My thoughts went to another column I wrote in 2006 where I said “there is no silver bullet when it comes to energy prices. The common-sense American understands that we cannot drill our way out of the problem, we cannot conserve our way out of the problem, and we cannot alter our lifestyles enough to fix the problem.” This week as I stood at the pump and considered the time that has passed since I wrote those columns (and the time that has passed since gas was under $2 a gallon), I watched the numbers continue to tick higher and higher and I grew more frustrated.

No wonder Americans are so fed up with Congress, I thought to myself. The issue of gas prices alone has been with us for over seven years and we are still here, staring at the pump, wondering why gas prices are still this high.

Last month I reintroduced my New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence, which calls for 50 percent energy independence in 10 years and 100 percent energy independence in 20 years. I first introduced the legislation back in 2008, where it was hailed by sources such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the Virginian-Pilot as one of the most innovative energy solutions before Congress. In 2009, the New Manhattan Project was offered as the alternative to the controversial cap-and-trade energy legislation as a solution that relied on innovation, rather than taxation, to pursue alternative energy and achieve a cleaner environment. Ultimately, the New Manhattan Project was voted down on party lines by the then-Democrat controlled Congress.

People often ask me why I continue to reintroduce legislation over and over again when it has yet to be signed into law. In fact, I had a reporter ask me just this year why I think the New Manhattan Project should be introduced again in this Congress. “What will be different?” she probed. For me, I tell those people, the reason is simple – I do it because it is right. In fact, now more than ever, I believe the time for the New Manhattan Project is right.

At the end of February, oil prices peaked to a two-and-a-half year high of $120 a barrel due to rumors that Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi had been assassinated.  Libya is the world’s twelfth largest oil producer and continued strife within the country and the broader Middle East has impacted the entire petroleum export industry. As a result, our oil prices have continued to fluctuate based on the unpredictable events developing in the Middle East.

But, the United States can no longer afford to allow political and economic unrest in other nations to dictate fuel costs, especially at a time when Americans are already feeling economic pain. Along with increasing our domestic supply of energy through drilling and expansion of clean coal and nuclear power, we must begin looking ahead to solve our energy challenges.

While we sit back and allow our gas prices to climb, nations like China are racing ahead in their efforts to achieve energy independence by seizing on technological innovations and making marked progress in relatively unknown areas like nuclear fusion. The Chinese Academy of Science announced in December 2009 that it has begun a new round of controlled nuclear fusion experiments.  Their success has already exceeded the progress of both European Union scientists and American nuclear experts, who recently reengaged in fusion research in October 2010.  Nuclear fusion remains relatively unexplored in the United States and is just one of many promising sources of energy that can move the United States toward energy independence. It is also one of the goals listed in my New Manhattan Project.

The project calls on the United States to reach 50 percent energy independence in 10 years and 100 percent in 20 years, and challenges individuals or groups to reach any of seven established energy goals:

  • Doubling car fuel efficiency to 70 MPG while keeping vehicles affordable
  • Cut home and business energy usage in half
  • Make solar power work at the same cost as coal
  • Make the production of biofuels cost-competitive with gasoline
  • Safely and cheaply store carbon emissions from coal-powered plants
  • Safely store or neutralize nuclear waste
  • Produce usable electricity from a nuclear fusion reaction

There is a reason that so many people have hailed this as the most innovative energy solution in Congress. The New Manhattan Project is the only project that seeks to harness the best in American creativity and ingenuity by creating a competitive environment for scientists and researchers to achieve 100 percent  energy independence within 20 years, ending our reliance on foreign sources of oil. Rather than relying on taxation to achieve energy results, with the New Manhattan Project enables the United States to only pay for results once we actually get them. Additionally, the bill encourages researchers, groups, educational institutions and businesses to help share the cost of the work towards achieving the goals.

Now more than ever, the time is ripe to make achieving energy independence a top priority for the United States. Now more than ever, I believe we need to catapult our nation towards energy independence and restore our competitive edge across the world. And now more than ever, I believe the New Manhattan Project is the tool to get us there.

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