Allen Boyd: Energy policy needs fixing, and this is a start
I approach the energy debate with the basic assumption that our current energy policy is not working.
Nothing illustrated this more than last summer, when gas prices in Florida climbed to more than $4 a gallon. This spike in energy prices contributed to the current recession, making it clear that our dependence on foreign oil is inextricably linked to our economic future.
We are dangerously dependent on foreign sources of energy, and this dependence is expensive. Our country sends more than $440 billion each year to buy crude oil from foreign countries. Now is the time to move to American-made energy.
To chart this path to energy independence, a new, balanced energy policy is needed — one that keeps costs low for North Florida families, invests in renewable and alternative energy sources, and promotes innovative energy technologies that will create American jobs.
I gave a lot of thought to the energy bill that the House of Representatives passed recently, and I am convinced that this bill does all of those things and is essential to our region’s and our country’s economic future.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the energy bill is that it would impose thousands of dollars in costs on the average household. This is simply not true. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the bill and concluded it would cost 48 cents a day for families at its height in 2020. These estimates did not even include the savings that would come from upgrades to the energy grid, more efficient homes and advanced appliance efficiency standards.
Many also complain about the costs associated with the cap-and-trade program, a part of the bill that addresses carbon emissions. Those who do not believe that the world population is affecting climate change will disagree with me, but the failure to begin reducing carbon emissions will leave a diminished, economically vulnerable world for our grandchildren.
What is indisputable is that our future on the current path leaves us with zero control over energy prices. American-made energy will be critical to our country’s economic future, to controlling energy costs and to maintaining our quality of life.
The cap-and-trade program would require utility companies to reduce carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020. Companies would be required to reduce their emissions or purchase allowances in order to exceed these caps. This will incentivize large utility companies to shift toward clean coal technologies and renewable sources of energy. Rural electric cooperatives (co-ops) in North Florida would receive free allowances to help offset energy costs and keep prices affordable.
Another key component of the energy bill is the establishment of a reasonable new standard for utility companies. Under the bill, the major Florida utility providers would be required to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2020, while co-ops would be exempt from meeting this standard. Florida could lower the 20-percent threshold on large utility companies by requesting that 8 percent of the standard be met through conservation measures, such as energy efficiency improvements. These standards are designed so that the consumer benefits from the gradual incorporation of locally derived energy and reasonable, corresponding rates.
For utility companies to meet the remaining 12-percent renewable energy requirement, the energy bill expands biomass and nuclear programs — both critical aspects of Florida’s energy capabilities.
I fought hard to make sure that biomass and nuclear programs were included and promoted in the energy bill. This is a significant win for our state and a large reason for my support of the bill.
In addition to biomass and nuclear, the energy bill invests in clean coal. Our country has approximately 27 percent of the world’s coal supply. Any workable energy policy must recognize the substantial role that coal will play in creating new jobs and making our country energy independent, and the energy bill does this by investing in technologies that will help make coal cleaner.
We are a long way from enacting a new, national energy policy into law.
The U.S. Senate also must draft an energy bill, and then the differences between the House and Senate bills must be reconciled.
While the House-passed energy bill may not be perfect, it reflects our long-term energy needs and responds to our collective responsibility to ensure a better world for future generations. As Congress continues to move forward and develop a national energy policy, I will be looking for a final bill that works for our state and sets the stage for long-term economic prosperity and a secure nation that is energy independent.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Congressman Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, represents District 2, which includes much of North Florida. Contact him through the Congressional Web site at http://www.house.gov/boyd/.