The GOP's "American Energy Act" Is Bad For America

June 25, 2009 4:05 pm ET

With the energy debate heating up in the House of Representatives, here are the facts on the GOP's "American Energy Act."

The Bush-Cheney Energy Plan Was A Failure

Under The Bush Energy Plan, U.S. Became More Dependent On Imported Oil From OPEC Countries.  According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. petroleum imports from OPEC countries increased from an average of 168,157 in 2001 to 181,729 in 2008. [Energy Information Administration, accessed 6/10/09]

Under The Bush Energy Plan, Average Household Energy Costs Rose Over $1,100.  According to a report conducted by the Center for American Progress: "Former President George W. Bush's energy policies, which today's conservatives would continue, plowed billions of dollars of subsidies into dirty energy while neglecting clean energy reform. What effect did this have on American families? Spiraling gasoline and electricity prices, a nation more dependent on oil and coal, and more pollution than ever before. Bush oversaw a lackluster economic expansion even before the Bush recession of December 2007. Over this period, the typical annual American household expenditure on electricity rose more than $170, and the typical annual American expenditure on gasoline rose more than $960 (in 2007 dollars). Note that the gasoline price increases listed here do not include the unprecedented $147 per barrel of oil and $4.11 gasoline prices that occurred in the summer of 2008. [Center for American Progress, "The Bill From Bush's Broken Energy System," April 2009; emphasis added]

Yet That's Exactly What House Republicans Are Proposing

House GOP

President Bush

HOUSE GOP PLAN: Increase Oil Drilling In the Outer Continental Shelf.  According to a summary of the House Republicans' American Energy Act: "The bill increases the supply of American energy by immediately moving forward with a leasing program on the already open [Outer Continental Shelf] OCS. The bill also simplifies and harmonizes the OCS mileage restrictions, expanding state territorial waters to 12 miles offshore (most state borders stop at three miles) and gives coastal states a share of the receipts from such energy exploration. A portion of the revenues created by OCS exploration would go to a renewable energy trust fund to pay for a variety of renewable, alternative and advanced energy programs." [American Energy Act Summary, accessed 6/10/09]

BUSH PLAN: Increase Oil Drilling In the Outer Continental Shelf. President Bush said: "This morning, I asked Democratic Congressional leaders to move forward with four steps to expand American oil and gasoline production. First, we should expand American oil production by increasing access to the outer continental shelf or OSC. Experts believe that the OCS could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to match the current oil production America for almost 10 years.  The problem is that congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980's. Since then, advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills. With these advances, and a dramatic increase in oil prices, Congressional restrictions on exploration have become outdated and counterproductive. Republicans in congress have proposed several promising bills that would lift the legislative ban on oil exploration in the OCS. I call on the House and Senate to pass good legislation as soon possible." [President Bush statement, 6/18/08]

HOUSE GOP PLAN: Expedite Construction Of More Oil Refineries. According to a summary of the House Republicans' American Energy Act: "The bill increases American supplies of gasoline and diesel by encouraging greater refinery capacity by streamlining and accelerating the refinery permitting process. The bill also requires the President to designate at least three closed military installations as potentially suitable for construction of a refinery, including at least one suitable for refining biomass to produce biofuel." [American Energy Act Summary, accessed 6/10/09]

BUSH PLAN: Expedite Construction Of More Oil Refineries.  President Bush said: "We need to expand and enhance our refining capacity.  Refineries are the critical link between crude oil and the gasoline and diesel fuel that drivers put in their tanks.  Recent changes in the makeup of our fuel supply, upgrades in our refining capacity are urgently needed.  Yet it has been nearly 30 years since our nation built a new refinery, and lawsuits and red tape have made it extremely costly to expand and modify existing refineries ... So today I am proposing measures to expedite the refinery permitting process. Under the reform process that I propose, challenges to refineries and other energy projects permits must be brought before the DC circuit court of appeals within 60 days of the issuance of a permit decision.  Congress should also empower the secretary of energy to establish binding deadlines for permit decisions and to ensure that the various levels of approval required in the refinery permitting process are handled in a timely way." [President Bush statement, 6/18/08]

HOUSE GOP PLAN: Build More Nuclear Power Plants. According to a summary of the House Republicans' American Energy Act: "The bill reinforces a commitment to protect public health and safety while providing for an accelerated regulatory process for new nuclear applications where there is a design already certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); a site already licensed for operating reactors; an operator in good standing with the NRC; and a full and complete Combined Operations and Construction License application. This bill also lowers construction costs by suspending import tariffs and duties on imported nuclear components for five years if there is no domestic manufacturer. The bill also provides a long-term solution for spent nuclear fuel. The legislation allows the NRC to finish its review of the Yucca Mountain repository without political interference, and repeals its 70,000 metric ton limitation, letting science and technology dictate how much the repository can safely hold. The bill also provides for recycling of spent nuclear fuel, thereby decreasing the demand for storage space at Yucca Mountain and amounts accumulating." [American Energy Act Summary, accessed 6/10/09]

BUSH PLAN: Build More Nuclear Power Plants.  During a weekly radio address, President Bush said: "Nuclear power generates large amounts of low-cost electricity without emitting air pollution or greenhouse gases. Yet nuclear power now produces only about 20 percent of America's electricity. It has the potential to play an even greater role. For example, over the past three decades, France has built 58 nuclear power plants and now gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Yet here in America, we have not ordered a new nuclear powerplant since the 1970s. So last summer, I signed energy legislation that offered incentives to encourage the building of new nuclear plants in America. Our goal is to start the construction of new nuclear power plants by the end of this decade." [President Bush's Weekly Radio Address, 2/18/08]

HOUSE GOP PLAN: Open The Arctic For Drilling. According to a summary of the House Republicans' American Energy Act: "The bill increases American energy by opening the Arctic Coastal Plain to exploration in an environmentally-sound manner, which could provide an additional 1 million barrels of oil per day. The bill requires timely lease sales, provides for revenue sharing with the State, designates a fund to mitigate the effects of exploration and development and provide for local community support, and devotes a portion of the revenues for a renewable energy trust fund to pay for renewable, alternative and advanced energy programs." [American Energy Act Summary, accessed 6/10/09]

BUSH PLAN: Open The Arctic For Drilling.  During a question and answer session in Florida, President Bush said: "I thought you were going to ask, how come we don't have the gas pipeline coming down yet, because there's a lot of untapped oil and gas up there that can be explored in environmentally friendly ways. And I think we ought to be drilling in ANWR--it's called ANWR. I know we can do it and protect the environment at the same time. And I know there's a lot of untapped gas up there that we ought to get down through pipeline as well. I don't know where all the oil goes coming out of the pipeline now. I'll try to find out for you." [Bush Press Conference, 5/9/06]

HOUSE GOP PLAN: Increase Production Of Oil Shale.  According to a summary of the House Republicans' American Energy Act: "It is estimated that more than 70 percent of American oil shale lies on federal lands which contain an estimated 1.23 trillion barrels of oil, more than 50 times the nation's proven conventional oil reserves. The bill codifies the oil shale lease program and restores leasing activities that were already underway prior to being halted in February 2009, by the current Administration. The bill mandates that a lease sale be held within 180 days of enactment." [American Energy Act Summary, accessed 6/10/09]

BUSH PLAN: Increase Production Of Oil Shale. While speaking to the Coalition for Affordable American Energy, President Bush said, "Congress can do some more. Once they solve this problem, they can allow us to drill in northern Alaska, which we can do in environmentally friendly ways. They should allow us to tap into the extraordinary potential of oil shale. And we need to expand our refining capacity here in America." [Bush Remarks in EEOB, 8/12/08]

U.S. Is Not "The Saudi Arabia Of Coal"

USGS: "We Really Can't Say We're The Saudi Arabia Of Coal Anymore." As reported by the Wall Street Journal: "'We really can't say we're the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore,' says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that conducted the study." [Wall Street Journal, 6/9/09]

While The U.S. Has Extensive Coal Reserves, "Relatively Little Of It Can Be Profitably Extracted." According to the Wall Street Journal, "by Mr. Warholic's estimate, the country has enough in the ground to last about 240 years... While there is almost certainly as much coal in the ground as Mr. Warholic's Energy Information Administration believes, relatively little of it can be profitably extracted. Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive analysis of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, the nation's largest and most productive, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably, even at prices higher than today's." [Wall Street Journal, 6/9/09]

  • Patriot Coal: "What's Left To Mine Is Not As Easy As What We Mined Even 10 Or 20 Years Ago." According to the Wall Street Journal, "After many decades of mining, some of the country's coal fields are showing their age. 'What's left to mine is not as easy as what we mined even 10 or 20 years ago,' says Janine Orf, spokeswoman for Patriot Coal Corp. in St. Louis. 'The seams are getting thinner and there are more limestone intrusions.'" [Wall Street Journal, 6/9/09]

Increased Difficulty In Extracting Coal Is Driving Up Prices.  According to the Wall Street Journal, "In the field, challenges are becoming more apparent. Mining companies report they have to dig deeper and move more earth to extract coal from aging mines, driving up costs. Utilities have grown skittish about whether suppliers can ship promised coal on time." [Wall Street Journal, 6/9/09]

No One Knows How Long U.S. Supply Of Coal Will Last.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal: "Even Mr. Warholic, the EIA analyst, says he's skeptical about the results. 'It's kind of crazy' to postulate how long U.S. reserves will last, he says. 'It could be 110 years or 225 years or something completely different. It all depends on your assumptions.'" [Wall Street Journal, 6/9/09]

Nuclear Power Is Expensive

Electricity Generated By Nuclear Power Will Cost "2 To 5" Times Current Retail Price.  According to a report titled Business Risks and Costs of Nuclear Power: "Generation costs/kWh for new nuclear (including fuel & O&M but not distribution to customers) are likely to be from 25 - 30 cents/kWh. This high cost may destroy the very demand the plant was built to serve. High electric rates may seriously impact utility customers and make nuclear utilities' service areas noncompetitive with other regions of the U.S. which are developing lower-cost electricity... Most ratepayers nationwide are now paying retail electricity rates (including distribution & transmission & G&A costs) equal to 6 cents/kWh to 15 cents/kWh current retail electric rates. Adding new nuclear power - with costs for generation alone, that are 2 to 5 times total retail electric rates now in place - will have a dramatic upward effect on electric rates." [Business Risks and Costs of Nuclear Power, 1/2/09; all emphases original]

  • Expensive Nuclear Power Plants Raise Rates Years Before Producing Power. The St. Petersburg Times reported: "If you think $17-billion is a whopper of a price for a pair of new nuclear reactors and related construction in Levy County, be warned... customers will start paying for the plant years before [the nuclear plant] goes into service. As the Times reported Tuesday, the price tag for the nuke plant could start showing up in Progress' monthly bills starting next year, with residential customers facing an average increase of about $9 a month." [St. Petersburg Times, 3/12/08]

A Single Nuclear Power Plant Can Cost Upwards Of $18 Billion.  As reported by the blog Climate Progress, "In October 2007, Florida Power and Light (FPL), 'a leader in nuclear power generation,' presented its detailed cost estimate for new nukes to the Florida Public Service Commission. It concluded that two units totaling 2,200 megawatts would cost from $5,500 to $8,100 per kilowatt - $12 billion to $18 billion total!(These are the actual costs, not adjusted for inflation.) Lew Hay, chairman and CEO of FPL, said, 'If our cost estimates are even close to being right, the cost of a two-unit plant will be on the order of magnitude of $13 to $14 billion. That's bigger than the total market capitalization of many companies in the U.S. utility industry and 50 percent or more of the market capitalization of all companies in our industry with the exception of Exelon. ... This is a huge bet for any CEO to take to his or her board.'" [Climate Progress, 6/13/08]

Nuclear Power Is Unnecessary

FERC Chairman On Nuclear Plants: "We May Not Need Any, Ever." As reported by Energy & Environment News, "No new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today. 'We may not need any, ever,' Jon Wellinghoff told reporters at a U.S. Energy Association forum.... 'I think [new nuclear expansion] is kind of a theoretical question, because I don't see anybody building these things, I don't see anybody having one under construction,' Wellinghoff said." [Energy & Environment News, 4/22/09]

House Republicans Have Close Ties To The Oil & Gas Industries

The Oil & Gas Industries Have Donated Nearly $100 Million To Republican Congressional Candidates Since 1990.  According to OpenSecrets.org, the oil and gas industries have donated $99,167,266 to Republican Congressional candidates since the 1990 election cycle. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]

  • Rep. Boehner Has Received Over $200,000 From The Oil & Gas Industries.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. John Boehner has received $207,550 from the oil and gas industries. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]
  • Rep. Cantor Has Received Over $200,000 From The Oil & Gas Industries.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. Eric Cantor has received $205,850 from the oil and gas industries. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]
  • Rep. Pence Has Received Over $160,000 From The Oil & Gas Industries.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. Mike Pence has received $160,950 from the oil and gas industries. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]
  • Rep. Barton Has Received Over $1.3 Million From The Oil & Gas Industries.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. Joe Barton has received $1,364,760 from the oil and gas industries since the 1990 election cycle. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]

House Republicans Have Close Ties To The Electric Utility Industry

The Electric Utility Industry Has Donated Over $54 Million To Republican Congressional Candidates Since 1990.  According to OpenSecrets.org, the electric utility industry has donated $54,249,915 to Republican Congressional candidates since the 1990 election cycle. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]

  • Rep. Boehner Has Received Over $350,000 From The Electric Utility Industry.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. John Boehner has received $357,980 from the electric utility industry since the 1990 election cycle. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]
  • Rep. Cantor Has Received Over $290,000 From The Electric Utility Industry.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. Eric Cantor has received $297,706 from the electric utility industry. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]
  • Rep. Barton Has Received Over $1.2 Million From The Electric Utility Industry.  According to OpenSecrets.org, Rep. Joe Barton has received $1,246,185 from the electric utility industry since the 1990 election cycle. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 6/25/09]
Print