This week, Capitol Hill’s attention has been focused on debates over two important energy issues: the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, favored by most in the conservative movement, and the Shaheen-Portman Senate energy efficiency bill, which Heritage Action has key voted “No.” Both issues have been percolating in Washington for years, so it’s no surprise they’re receiving so much attention now.
That said, because these two issues have so dominated energy news in recent days, it’s easy to lose sight of the broader array of energy policies under consideration in Washington. That’s unfortunate, as Republicans have distinguished themselves of late on energy policy, developing innovative solutions that promise to create and secure jobs while reducing everyday costs for all Americans – but only if they are given a chance by President Obama.
Four of these bills are especially impressive, and serve as a stark contrast to the comprehensive energy bills passed by Congress in 2006 and 2007.
Representative Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has taken the lead on expediting the approval process for liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. This may seem like a small issue, but Gardner’s Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act would address the natural gas permitting backlog that has been preventing America from taking full advantage of one of the most promising domestic sources of energy. That would create jobs here at home and, as many others have pointed out, help undermine Russia’s strategy of energy extortion abroad.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) are connecting energy issues to an important issue Republicans must own if they wish to win national elections: the rampant cronyism in Washington that corrodes entrepreneurialism and distorts markets, profiting the well-connected at the expense of taxpayers. Recognizing that the market in energy has been warped by a web of incentives for politically connected energy companies developing favored sources, their Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act (EFEPA) would eliminate myriad distortionary tax incentives for favored industries, creating a level playing field for energy production.
Representative Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) is taking a more comprehensive approach. His EXPAND Act targets energy tax incentives like EFEPA while also reforming numerous burdensome federal energy regulations. It abolishes the EPA’s job-killing greenhouse gas restrictions — the regulations that top Obama aide John Podesta has said Congress has a “zero percent” chance of stopping. Among other things, Duncan also targets the destructive Bush-era ethanol mandate for elimination.
Finally, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) have a comprehensive bill of their own, which incorporates some of the best ideas from the aforementioned proposals along with a few of its own to remove various barriers to the sale and production of energy. Among its provisions, the American Energy Renaissance Act would curtail the EPA’s plans to regulate coal-fired power plants out of existence, promote broader pipeline development in addition to approving Keystone, create a Congressional check on new EPA regulations resulting in extreme economic burdens, and expedite permitting processes for refinery construction.
These ideas reflect the work that Heritage and other conservative research institutions have done in recent years on these issues. The common themes: More production is a good thing; free markets will find more efficient solutions; overbearing regulation threatens to stifle both innovation and foreign competitiveness. President Obama claims his energy approach is “all of the above,” but until our government recognizes those core principles, we’ll be missing out on countless opportunities to leverage our abundant energy opportunities.
The policy landscape on energy should serve as a model for Republican leadership on other issues: Be the party of ideas. Legislate. The best ideas will rise to the top, and before we know it, we’ll have developed a comprehensive set of policy options on a wide range of issues that will serve us well once we return to power.