By Sen. Joe Manchin
Some of us have been around long enough to remember when our country first figured out it was time we stop relying on other countries for our energy needs. It was in 1973. An Arab oil embargo sent shock waves through the U.S. economy with gas prices soaring from 39 cents to 56 cents a gallon. Then-President Nixon proposed “Project Independence” as the first step in kicking America’s oil import habit.
Forty years have come and gone since then. And in that time our political leaders have argued non-stop about what to do, even as we have fought wars over oil that have cost us billions of dollars and thousands of American lives to make America energy independent.
Well, I’ve got a simple answer, straight from the mountains of West Virginia — we use all of our domestic energy resources to meet as much of our energy needs as possible. Oil, coal, natural gas, geothermal, nuclear, biomass, wind, solar, hydro — we use anything and everything we’ve got, even as we develop new energy sources.
That’s just common sense. That’s just West Virginia common sense. Obviously, West Virginia is best known as a coal state. But in our state, we’re using every energy source we have. West Virginia is the example the whole country should follow.
The fact is it is more important now than ever before that our country can achieve energy independence. Not only is affordable abundant energy the key to America maintaining its leadership in the global economy of the 21st century, but to be truly secure as a nation, we cannot be hostage to the political whims of energy-producing countries that do not share our values and certainly do not wish us well.
As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, I have concentrated on helping our country develop a realistic and responsible energy policy — an “all-of-the-above” policy — so we don’t ever have to depend on getting energy from other countries and paying their jacked-up prices.
I understand the pain that West Virginians feel at the gas pump. I feel it, too. That’s why it’s always been important for me to do everything I can to ease that pain. That’s why I introduced the Americans Alternative Fuels Act with Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to put the brakes on the federal government buying alternative foreign fuels that end up costing us more.
That’s also why I was pleased that IGS Energy CNG Services has plans to invest in building natural gas refueling stations along the I-79 corridor from Charleston to Pittsburgh. To be energy independent, we must continue promoting the use of West Virginia-based fuels for our cars. It is cleaner, more affordable, and will be a shot in the arm for our economy by creating new jobs right here in our state.
It just doesn’t make sense that we are importing billions of dollars of foreign oil every day when we have such an abundance of natural gas right under our feet.
(Last) week, I was proud to take over the chairmanship of the Senate’s Energy Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining because it gives me the opportunity to push even harder for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
The Subcommittee chairmanship also gives me the chance to serve and represent West Virginia on issues critical to our great state because the subcommittee oversees activities that West Virginians care about a lot — mining policy, mining education and research, public lands and wildlife refuges.
I’m confident that if we work together and use our common sense, we can develop a strong bipartisan energy plan that will not only break the power of oil producing countries but will also chart a new and promising energy future for America.
(Manchin is West Virginia’s junior senator.)