COLUMBIA — As the nation's reliance on foreign oil increases, the four candidates for the 9th District seat in the U.S. Congress are contemplating how the nation can begin creating alternative energy sources and become more self-sufficient and self-sustaining.
In 2009, the nation consumed 18.8 million barrels of petroleum products per day, according to the National Resources Defense Council. To keep up with this demand, the U.S. imported about 3 million barrels of petroleum products per day.
Blaine Luetkemeyer, Republican incumbent
Luetkemeyer supports an "all of the above" energy approach, referring to the American Energy Act introduced by Republicans.
He said a problem in government is that there are no policies that allow the nation to advance the development of its own resources.
"The Department of Energy has been a total failure," Luetkemeyer said.
He said the agency's original purpose was to decrease the nation's reliance on foreign oil over time, but that today the nation is importing almost 70 percent of its oil.
The department should either be eliminated or its mission adjusted, Luetkemeyer said.
"If we are going to keep leading the world, we need to have ample and cheap sources of energy," he said.
Luetkemeyer supports restricting cap and trade, a program that provides financial incentives to businesses that reduce pollution emissions. He worries that the EPA will try to use its rule-making ability to implement programs in a cap-and-trade bill without going through the legislature.
He said the nation has a rich supply of resources on the shoreline, but every time the government receives an oil lease to drill, environmentalists opposed to off-shore drilling take the lease to court. That needs to stop, Luetkemeyer said.
"If we are going to work for independence, we will have to turn energy policy around," he said. "Policy on energy is reactive rather than proactive."
Luetkemeyer said the nation should utilize its large supply of coal because it is an energy source that is safe, efficient, effective and cheap, he said.
He said that if America fails to create its own energy sources, it will continue to grow more dependent on foreign oil.
"Our economy will suffer," Luetkemeyer said. "Our way of life will suffer."
Christopher Dwyer, Libertarian
Dwyer supports producing and using different types of energy, and he opposes cap and trade.
He said that as fossil fuels become harder to find and more expensive, wind and solar power will become more acceptable and the nation will start moving toward natural gas. Dwyer said that as that shift begins, the free market will dictate the path that energy production will take.
"If people begin to demand cleaner energy, someone will pick this up and start investing in this," he said.
Dwyer said people will instinctively begin to make this shift just as they began shifting toward smaller vehicles as gas prices rose. The move will happen when alternative energy sources become economically viable.
"As demand grows for something, more people will get into that energy, and people will see there is money to be made," he said. "People will find a way to make it more profitable."
Ron Burrus, write-in independent
The nation must develop all sources of energy, Burrus said.
"I think we have to invest in wind power, hydro power, natural gas," he said. "Anything that is available to use, we need to make it more accessible to Americans."
It is also less expensive to collect energy from solar panels, he said.
Burrus said America should be able to have cars that get 50 miles to the gallon within five years.
"I don't see why we can't do it by 2015," he said.
Burrus said the nation must conserve the fuel it has because it is on the "downhill side of the easy oil" that can be reached, he said. Tapping oil reserves will only become increasingly difficult, dangerous and expensive.
"This needs to addressed with swift haste," Burrus said.
The benefits for developing alternate sources of energy include cleaner air, which in turn will lead to fewer health problems, Burrus said.
Jeff Reed, write-in Democrat
Clean energy is the No. 1 growing job sector in the country, Reed said.
"We must embrace that," he said.
He said developing an energy program is important for three reasons:
- It would benefit national security if the nation stopped importing $15 million worth of foreign oil per month.
- It would bring jobs back to America from other countries, and there would be more investment in national programs.
- Without regulations and funding for the EPA, disasters such as the Gulf oil spill will become more likely.
Reed would like the government to offer incentives for creating alternative sources of energy. "I know someone whose house is running off of a bicycle," he said.
Producing energy at home would allow people to use what they require and store the remaining amount, Reed said.
"The initial start-up (cost) of this will not be as outrageous as people believe," he said. It will be more expensive at first but over time prices will decrease.
Reed also said it's important that the United States tap its natural gas reserves to create jobs and curtail the need for offshore drilling.