Letter on Energy from Senator John Ensign

Dear Mr. Jack:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about rising gas prices. I value the opinions of every Nevadan and am always grateful to those who take the time to inform me of their views.

As a Nevadan, I share your frustration regarding the considerable rise in gasoline prices. I agree that oil prices are too high and the United States must become less dependent on foreign oil. An important part of decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil is to develop alternative fuel sources and increase domestic production in a fiscally responsible and environmentally sensitive way.

To that end you will be pleased to learn that on April 10, 2008, the U.S. Senate successfully passed my bill, the Clean Energy Tax Stimulus Act, that extends incentives to encourage renewable energy.  My bill encourages electricity production using renewable energy resources such as geothermal, wind, and hydropower facilities. 

In addition to bringing these alternative sources online, it is equally important that we dramatically increase domestic petroleum production and refining capacity. Our domestic production should include oil development on federal lands where I believe that there are areas suitable for further exploration which can be done in an environmentally sound way. In fact, estimates indicate that if President Clinton had not vetoed the drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in 1995 an additional one million barrels of domestically produced oil would be available for the market today. Also, in addition to increasing crude oil production, we need to refine the oil into a consumer product such as heating oil or gasoline.

The United States is blessed with vast oil reserves that remain untapped. The Department of the Interior released a comprehensive inventory of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) resources in February 2006. That report estimated that there are 8.5 billion barrels of oil ready for extraction with another 86 billion barrels of oil classified as undiscovered resources. This area also contains nearly 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, an important fuel source for cars and trucks. Oil shale and oil sands are prevalent in the western states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The resource potential of oil shale reserves is estimated to be the equivalent of 1.8 trillion barrels of oil. As a comparison, reserves in Saudi Arabia are only 200 billion barrels of oil.

Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled Congress has placed a moratorium on exploring ANWR, OCS, and oil shale resources forcing us to import more foreign oil instead of producing it ourselves. While I fully recognize the importance of preserving America’s natural beauty for future generations, I believe that we can open these areas in an environmentally sensitive manner. This would help diversify our sources of crude oil, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and improve national security.

Conservation and new technologies are another important part of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In the long run, as more and more cars and trucks are powered by alternative fuels, the demand for oil should decrease. I am pleased with the strides that the automotive industry has made in developing renewable power plants such as hydrogen, electric, and hybrid-powered engines. The automotive industry has also been successful in developing natural-gas-powered engines, which power many fleets of government cars, city buses, and some commercial trucks. With our country’s vast resources of natural gas, I am hopeful that more natural-gas-powered cars and trucks will be made available to consumers. I encourage the automotive industry to continue working to develop these exciting new engines which are vitally important to our long-term national strategy.

You will also be pleased to learn that that, in December, Congress passed the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 H.R. 6, with my support. This bill included a provision that would raise the national fuel economy standard to 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020. This new standard would be applied to all cars and light trucks. Through this conservation effort, Congress has taken measures that will make cars and trucks more efficient, lowering overall consumption of gasoline.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. Please feel free to contact me in the future on matters of importance to you. Should you have any other questions or comments or would like to sign up for my newsletter, please do not hesitate to either write or e-mail me via my website at http://ensign.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

JOHN ENSIGN

United States Senator

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