Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) - “More American Energy: Lower Gas Prices”

Posted on June 13, 2008

Last week, I asked Tennesseans to share with me how record-high gas prices are affecting their family budgets. Since then, I’ve already received more than 500 replies about the effect high gas prices are having across our state. Lounita Howard from Lascassas, Tennessee, told me that she and her husband Bobby – a full-time farmer – are spending close to $70 a week on gas just commuting between their farm and family-owned community newspaper. Two years ago, gas cost the Howard family $30 to $35 a week. With diesel fuel costs for Bobby running around $4.70 a gallon, and off-road fuel for tractors looking to reach $5 a gallon, the prices are hitting them especially hard. I also have a letter from Jonathan Henry, a U.S. Marine for 18 years, who is a Tennessee native who recently returned from 12 months in Iraq. His family was given a flat rate for moving costs. Gas is so high, they have had to make cuts in about everything else, he says. He had to forgo his family vacation. As we hear these stories from Tennesseans and other Americans, Congress must take every step to create more American energy now. There is no excuse to beg the Middle East to drill for more oil when we have so many unused American sources of energy. Our nation uses 25 percent of all the energy in the world, and Democrats should be joining Republican efforts to encourage oil exploration and drilling off our shores so we are less dependent on other nations for sources of oil. We can do this in an environmentally safe way, and we should use some of the profits for conservation efforts. At the same time we are using American energy, we know the future is a different kind of future for energy. I have suggested – with support from many of my colleagues – that we have a new Manhattan Project, in effect, to focus on things we do not know how to do: How do we get solar power down to the cost of fossil fuel? How do we make plug-in electric cars commonplace? How do we safely dispose of nuclear waste by reprocessing it? How do we have more research for advanced biofuels, made from crops we do not eat? We want that kind of future, where America has achieved clean energy independence. We want to start today to move toward it with the same intellectual horsepower and speed and dollars that we moved toward splitting the atom and building a bomb in World War II. But that is the future. The first step toward that future is to use more American energy now. Until we get to this future, we are going to need more of it. We can either buy more oil from the Middle East and from Venezuela, or we can make more of it here. It is that simple. ###