Over the past year and a half, a clear pattern has emerged in the policies proposed and enacted by the Administration and its supporters in Congress. That pattern has been to increase the size, scope, and influence of the federal government in an effort to achieve the desired policy result. The current example is the push by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon emissions, which essentially would lead to the EPA blanketing our economy with permitting requirements and dictating our national energy policy. The American people are displeased with a "federal government knows best" approach to complex issues, and I am hopeful that Congress may begin to follow suit with policies that make use of smaller, more sensible government.
EPA's approach, as well as many Congressional proposals (including cap-and-trade), address energy policy with legislation that would increase fuel, electricity, and farm input costs and effectively punish anyone who drives a car or flips a light switch. Though we can all generally agree we must increase our energy efficiency and decrease our foreign oil dependency, such policies would further empower a large federal bureaucracy over the citizens it pledges to serve. Instead, the government should create incentives for the American people, without punishing consumers based on where they live. It should help us make the United States a more energy efficient country.
One thoughtful proposal that would take us in a different direction was recently unveiled by Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana. Instead of relying heavily upon taxes and government regulation over businesses, Lugar's proposal, (known as the "Lugar Practical Energy and Climate Plan") emphasizes increasing vehicle and building efficiency as its starting point. By focusing on improving energy efficiency standards, the bill would lead to an across-the-board increase in the energy efficiency of all new vehicles and many residential and commercial buildings. And it would accomplish this goal in part by providing incentives for Americans to make energy-efficient decisions.
Senator Lugar's bill provides a central role for increased nuclear power. This development would be especially important for Nebraska because we depend on nuclear power and could provide a tremendous boost to our supply of clean energy across the country. Nuclear power is clean, reliable, and lasting source of energy that can deliver "baseload," the back-up power source that wind and solar must have when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. As our country's economy recovers and increases its demand for electric power, more domestic electricity production will be needed. Nuclear-powered energy would go a long way in ensuring we meet this increasing demand.
The energy debate will likely intensify in the comings weeks. I will be reviewing proposals like Senator Lugar's to see what works best for Nebraska and for our country. We can improve our energy security without hammering consumers, levying more taxes, and increasing the size of the federal government. I look forward to working with my colleagues toward policy that is good not only for American families, businesses, and farms, but also for America's energy future as well.