Senator John ThuneIn recent weeks I have used this space to share what I have been doing, both in Washington and in South Dakota, to lead Congress in taking action on high gas prices. I am pleased to announce that the bipartisan "Gang of 10," which I helped form, has unveiled a plan to expand domestic production of energy, conserve fossil fuels, and spur the further development of clean renewable energy so that we may finally break the stranglehold of foreign oil.
For weeks, I have been working with the "Gang of 10," which includes five Democrats and five Republicans, to put politics aside and come up with a comprehensive energy package that will reduce energy prices for the American people. The New Energy Reform Act of 2008 (New ERA Act) would increase domestic oil and natural gas production, extend the wind energy production tax credit for four years, transition American fuel consumption from fossil fuels to biofuels, increase conservation, and launch an Apollo-like project to move America's cars and trucks to non-petroleum-based fuels.
The New ERA Act will open the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the southern Atlantic Coast. Over 18 billion barrels of oil exist off our shores, but Congress has kept these resources off-limits for over 20 years. Significant environmental safeguards are included in our proposal and production would take place 50 to 200 miles off the coast.
The New ERA Act will invest $15 billion to overcome the technological barriers to alternative fuel vehicles and help U.S. automakers become the world leader in making alternative fuel vehicles. South Dakota is a leader in biofuels production and this proposal will invest an additional $2.5 billion in alternative fuel infrastructure such as E-85 and blender pumps and ethanol-dedicated pipelines. Within 20 years, our plan will ensure that 85 percent of our new cars and trucks run on non-petroleum based fuels, which will finally break our nation's oil addiction.
Unfortunately, the energy debate in Washington has been sidelined this year due to partisan, election-year politics. However, I believe that Congress cannot stand idly by as consumers continue to experience record fuel prices. I urge the rest of my colleagues in Congress to come together, as the "Gang of 10" has, with a willingness to compromise and solve one of the greatest problems facing this nation. The American people can no longer afford the status quo of Washington inaction. The time to act is now.
America is at a crossroads due to our growing dependence on foreign sources of energy. One road puts our economic and national security at risk and the other road moves us toward greater energy independence. The New Energy Reform Act of 2008 taps into American's limitless potential and resourcefulness and could be the start of a new era of American energy independence. With Congress in recess during the month of August, I strongly believe that the public will urge other elected officials to follow in our footsteps to provide viable solutions to our nation's energy future.