Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other senators from the western U.S. celebrated the launch of the Senate Western Caucus by introducing the Clean, Affordable, and Reliable Energy (CARE) Act.
A comprehensive energy bill, the CARE Act is aimed at ensuring that all the energy tools are in place to fuel our economy and fix our nation's dangerous overdependence on foreign oil.
"One of the keys to our nation's greatness has been the availability of abundant affordable energy. It's unfortunate that the Obama administration and leaders in Congress from Eastern states want to make affordable energy a thing of the past," Hatch said. "We're here to counter that effort."
Hatch said he agrees with the Obama administration's push for ethanol as a vehicle fuel, along with solar and wind as sources of electricity. He added, however, that he differs with the president's apparent desire to shut down existing sources of abundant, reliable energy.
"Ethanol has major land use, water, and other environmental constraints, and solar and wind are both very intermittent and can never take the place of our need for base load power generation," Hatch continued. "The president and congressional leaders will ruin this country if they shut down abundant and reliable energy sources that we can afford and that we know work."
Hatch said the administration's anti-oil agenda was highlighted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's recent decision to shut down 77 energy leases that had already been auctioned off and paid for. The lease sales were the result of many years of environmental studies and reviews by Salazar's own land managers in the department.
Furthermore, the senator said, the Interior secretary has released a report in an attempt to defend the indefensible - taking land management decisions away from his own professionals who understand the relevant issues better than anyone else and leaving those decisions to a less-informed group that he will handpick.
One of the aims of the Senate Western Caucus is to thwart the anti-oil agenda of the Washington elite and their extreme environmentalist allies, while at the same time promoting alternative energy.
"As one of the senators who initiated the first sagebrush rebellion in the 1970s, I recall that debate being largely about land use questions," Hatch said. "The impact of that battle was felt mostly by Westerners. But the anti-oil agenda being pursued by the current administration and congressional leadership, will impact every American in higher gas prices, higher energy prices and higher food prices.
"We call ourselves the Senate Western Caucus because we represent good western values and we need to underscore the common beliefs Utahns share with our neighbors," the senator said. "However, we're really fighting for all Americans who pump gas into their car, turn on the lights at home, or want to feed their children healthy, affordable meals. That's really what our agenda comes down to."
The Clean, Affordable, Reliable Energy (CARE) Act
A Comprehensive, All-of-the-Above Strategy for American Energy
1) Renewable and Alternative Energy - Facilitate development and deployment of cleaner renewable and alternative energy sources.
Renewable and Alternative Energy Trust Fund - The CARE Act establishes a trust fund to promote the development of renewable and alternative energy, paid for by revenues from new oil and gas exploration.
Nuclear - The CARE Act eliminates barriers to the expansion of nuclear power production by promoting the recycling of spent nuclear fuel and providing incentives for nuclear capacity development.
Synthetic Fuels - The bill authorizes the Department of Defense to enter into multiyear contracts for procurement of synthetic fuels and repeals section 526 of EISA 2007 to allow the federal government to procure advanced alternative fuels.
Alternative Fuel Vehicles - This legislation extends tax incentives for alternative fuel vehicles and for new plug-in vehicles.
Education and Workforce - Harness the strong work ethic and creative ingenuity of the American people by training our domestic energy workforce and encouraging scientific and technologic advancements through education.
The bill provides funding for research grants at institutions of higher learning to support programs in energy and engineering.
The bill provides funding for merit-based scholarships for individuals pursuing degrees in energy-related fields, such as chemical or mineral engineering, petroleum geology, or alternative and renewable energy.
The bill provides funding for the operation and/or development of energy-related programs at community colleges.
Production - Increase the supply of American-made energy by enabling the United States to responsibly explore and develop its oil and gas resources.
Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Energy Infrastructure - Foster the development of U.S. energy infrastructure to make our energy supply more affordable and reliable and to provide a path for a cleaner energy future tomorrow.
The CARE Act grants preferential tax treatment to bonds used to pay for construction of vital parts of our nation's energy infrastructure.
The bill extends the exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard for small refineries for an additional four years.
Promoting Effective and Efficient Government - Streamline the regulatory process and improve accountability to ensure government bureaucracy doesn't stand in the way of American energy reliability and security.
The CARE Act prevents the misuse of the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act for regulating greenhouse gases.
The bill removes unnecessary bureaucratic red-tape by streamlining the NEPA process and related judicial proceedings for any reviews necessary to carry out the bill.
The bill establishes an Alaska Offshore Continental Shelf Coordination Office to streamline leasing off the coast of Alaska.
This legislation would make the Mineral Management Service Director a Senate-confirmed position.
Conservation and Efficiency - Promote energy conservation and efficiency through incentives for energy efficient homes and buildings and by ensuring government regulations do not discourage repairs and maintenance that improve efficiency.
The CARE Act encourages conservation through tax incentives for energy efficient homes and buildings. It also extends tax credits for using energy efficient appliances and making energy efficient upgrades to existing homes.
The bill facilitates investment in newer, cleaner technologies at existing facilities by clarifying that routine maintenance and repair shall not constitute a modification of an existing source requiring compliance with new source review requirements under the Clean Air Act.
Current co-sponsors of the CARE Act with Sen. Hatch:
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), David Vitter (R- La.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
"Although the Senate Western Caucus is founded today with a discussion of energy issues, that is just the beginning," Hatch said. "The values held by citizens in the West are applicable to more than our nation's energy debate and the caucus will be rolling out several western initiatives over the coming weeks and months that will present common sense solutions to a whole host of problems currently facing our country."
Current members of the Senate Western Caucus are: Sens. John Barrasso, (R-Wyo.), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), David Vitter (R-La.).