Thompson Statement at May 26 Energy Solutions Group Summit in Pittsburgh

May 27, 2009

Congressman Pence, thank you for your hard work and leadership on this issue. 

Pennsylvania led the way in the use of coal, natural gas and oil for industrial, commercial, and residential use and built the country’s first nondefense nuclear reactor at Penn State.
Affordable and reliable energy is one of the most important issues that we face as a nation.  Congress has an obligation to make sure that we have access to our own abundant domestic energy such as coal, natural gas and oil.
 
As most of us know, Pennsylvania has had a long history in the energy business and has been a national and worldwide leader for over 150 years.  The world’s first commercial oil well was drilled by Col. Edwin Drake in Titusville, PA in 1859.  These precious resources not only have provided many individuals and families with good, high-paying jobs, but helped us win two world wars and before that were vital during the Industrial Revolution – a period that brought our country to economic prominence and led to our greatest technologies and innovations.
 
For a variety of reasons, I believe that it is important that we invest and research in new technologies – such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.  Republicans are committed to developing and researching all forms of energy that we all want to bring to fruition.  But we must be realistic about achieving these goals.  Fossil fuels currently comprise 85% of our energy consumption, whereas wind and solar are only about 1%.  The fact remains, whether we like it or not, fossil fuels will have to play a dominant role in our energy portfolio at least in the coming decades – and I believe that Pennsylvania should continue to play an important part in our energy future.

Specifically, recent studies are now showing that Pennsylvania’s rich energy history may be just the first chapter in our role with energy.  It is estimated that the Marcellus Shale – which rests below 80% of the Commonwealth – is likely the third largest natural gas find in the world.  In short, the Marcellus has the potential to power the entire country for decades.  The Marcellus gas reserves below Pennsylvania could very well help bring about a much needed economic boom in the Commonwealth that we’ve not seen in 100 years.  I am hopeful that Pennsylvania will allow for this production to occur, bringing all of the economic benefits with it.

Another area of great energy resources is our own Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  Offshore is the cleanest place to produce energy and we have vast resources in our federal waters.  It is conservatively estimated that the net worth of the OCS is upwards of $1.7 trillion.  I believe that Congress and the President should start by expediting leasing on the OCS and using those royalties as a permanent funding stream for  enewable, research for traditional energy sources and environmental cleanups.
 
In Washington, we do not have a revenue problem – we have a spending problem.  But, I think that there are few in Washington that would turn their noses up at a few trillion extra dollars.

But we should not stop there.  The United States has more coal than Saudi Arabia has petroleum.  The amount of coal that we have in this country literally could power our entire country for centuries.  That is why I believe that we should continue to invest in clean coal technologies, as well as carbon capture and sequestration. 
 
I believe that we should be doing more to encourage nuclear energy.  If the current global warming debate is truly about carbon dioxide emissions, then we should be aggressively trying to utilize nuclear energy, because it emits no CO2.  In addition, the renewable source that has shown the most promise has been biomass, which should be encouraged because of its relationship to forest health.

Unfortunately, instead of encouraging the use of forest energy resources, the House Energy and Commerce Committee just recently passed legislation that will do the opposite.  It’s call “cap and trade” and simply put, it will substantially reduce energy production from natural gas, coal and oil.
 
I believe that there is not as much of a public outrage over any cap and trade program because most people don’t really understand how it might work and what the real consequences of it would be.  In essence, such a program would put a cap on how much carbon dioxide individuals and companies could emit and will mandatorily reduce that level over time.  If one were to breach that cap level, then they would be required to purchase carbon offsets or pay a tax.  The obvious intention of enacting this is to make traditional energy sources – coal, oil and natural gas – so expensive that people will be forced to use less of them because they can’t afford to.
 
This proposal simply will devastate our already strained economy, especially in rural Pennsylvania.  We don’t have mass transportation in much of my district.  We have to drive everywhere we go and many of my constituents cannot afford to drive hybrid cars.  We have to heat our homes with fossil fuels during the harsh, frigid winter months.  This legislation if enacted will force our electric bills to skyrocket.  I’d like to read a few sentences from a letter that Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) sent to each Member of the PA Congressional delegation. 

“Pennsylvania is the 4th largest coal producer in the nation, distributing over 75 million tons of coal each year. Roughly 7% of the nation’s coal supply is in Pennsylvania, and 58% of all electricity used here comes from coal. However, if the Waxman-Markey bill were to pass, Pennsylvania is looking at a bleak scenario by 2020: a net loss of as many as 66,000 jobs, a sizeable hike in electric bills of residential customers, and increase  in natural gas prices, and a significant downward pressure on our gross state product.
 
“We are far from convinced that the negative impacts this legislation could have on our state’s economy are fully understood and appreciated. The costs estimates are staggering.”

It makes no sense to in effect create unprecedented taxes during these economic times.  The negative effects of a cap and trade are obvious, yet there are no clear benefits.  We must convince the public, the media and Congress that cap and trade legislation will be a devastating blow to the economy and will do little – if anything – to reduce “global warming.”

I’d like to thank my House colleagues, Mr. Pence, Mr. Murphy, and Ms. Blackburn – and our witnesses, especially Dr. Brian Gleeson from the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Anthony Cugini of the National Energy Technology Laboratories.

#####