We Need to Expand Our Energy Choices

Note from the Directors: Congressman Bishop will stop by this evening to participate in the conversation in the comment thread to this post. We’re glad we can welcome him into the blogosphere today.

Thanks, RedState, for allowing me to occupy a little bit of your valuable e-estate. This is my first real foray into the blogosphere. Since I’m new at this, please, be gentle.

As someone who typically uses only legal pads (having just barely missed the days of the abacus), I realize it’s past time for me to finally embrace the 21st century’s preferred method of political communication. I couldn’t think of a better place to try out this series of “tubes” than here on RedState, especially now that you’ve renovated the place. (By the way, it looks great!).

As a number of my colleagues have demonstrated on this site over the past few days, energy has emerged as the primary issue of the day. The emergence of this issue presents us with a unique opportunity to draw a clear contrast between Republican solutions that promote American energy and the failed, restrictive energy policies of the Democrats. The good news is the public is on our side. Poll after poll shows that Americans are open to responsibly developing America’s energy resources.

As a Westerner, I know that America has ample domestic energy resources, whether it’s the reserves in ANWR, the oil and gas in the OCS, the oil shale resources found in the Rocky Mountain West, the 200-year coal supply, or the virtually untapped nuclear and other renewable resources such as hydro, solar, geothermal, biomass, and wind. The only real question is whether Democrat leaders of Congress have the political will to develop all of these resources.

One other thing people need to understand is that while soaring fuel prices inflict pain on all Americans, it is especially painful for the poor and middle class. For the rich, $4 a gallon gasoline is an annoyance; for those who are surviving paycheck to paycheck (like me), it can be devastating. The energy debate here in Congress has largely missed this element. This is the real “Inconvenient Truth.” Blogs like RedState can help make a difference in how many people hear the facts about the relationship between high energy prices and the poor.

One of the 20th century’s greatest sages, Yogi Berra, once said, “Prediction is hard, especially about the future.” Yogi holds a special place in my heart, but in this instance, I can think of one prediction that isn’t hard: If our Party is to have any chance this November, we need to own the issue of energy – not just dominate the debate – own it. We need to clearly and consistently expose Democrat policies as one source of today’s high energy prices. There is clearly blame enough to share for all, but the Democrats’ decades-long, deliberate opposition to domestic energy production has exacerbated the problem. We need to continue hammering home the theme of the “Pelosi Premium” and continue calling for votes on pro-domestic energy bills. Every time Republican proposals to lower prices at the pump by increasing energy production are contrasted with the Democrats’ scapegoat approach, the public can’t help but realize that the Democrats are unwilling to meet the serious energy challenges of the day.

However, attacking bad Democratic energy proposals is not enough. Our Party also needs to show that we have specific, concrete solutions to these problems. For months, the Republican Leadership has done a good job in framing the issue for the Party and in fostering a broad range of Republican energy proposals. I think it’s time now to fold the broad plan and the various good proposals into one specific strategic energy proposal to take to the American people. This is where I need your help.

Americans deserve to know that at least one party in Congress understands what high energy prices mean for the poor, the rural, and the elderly. Americans also deserve to know that at least one party in Congress supports the environmentally sound development of America’s vast energy resources and has a plan to dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign energy and cut energy prices. To that end, I’d like to present to you a couple of ideas to promote a pro-domestic, “all of the above” energy policy that will help demonstrate that Republicans have the understanding and the solutions needed to confront the current energy crisis:

“The American Energy Act”

For several months a number of my Western colleagues encouraged our party to adopt one comprehensive energy bill that fully incorporates the Republican energy agenda. While Republicans had sponsored a number of good energy bills, it was difficult to sell each individual bill to the public. We argued that coalescing around one bill that contained the best of Republican energy ideas was a key and necessary piece to winning this debate.

One early, worthy attempt to do this was H.R. 6384, “The Americans for American Energy Act.” This legislation, based on the principles of increased Production, Conservation, and Innovation, compiled the best energy ideas from the best energy bills in circulation. I am happy to see that our Leadership now agrees with the overall approach of “The Americans for American Energy Act” and that they are planning this week to introduce the “American Energy Act.” This bill, much like H.R. 6384, brings together a wide array of provisions aimed at increasing the supply of domestic energy, improving conservation efforts and promoting new technologies. It supports all domestic energy sources in one, easily explainable bill. I strongly urge the RedState community to get behind this legislation and make sure the public hears and learns of the “American Energy Act.”

“Stop the War on the Poor”

Last week I participated in a wonderful rally and press conference on the Capitol grounds that brought together a broad coalition of civil rights, agriculture, religious, senior citizen, veterans and consumer rights groups. These groups joined with over a dozen members of Congress to “Stop the War on the Poor.” All of us urgently want Americans to recognize that bad energy policies that drive up energy costs equate to a “war on the poor.” Members of the RedState community should research and join this and other energy consumer coalitions as we create a nationwide movement to increase domestic energy production to lower prices and ultimately end the war on the poor.

“Declaration of American Energy Independence”

A group of friends and colleagues recently drafted a “Declaration of American Energy Independence” based on the original Declaration of Independence. Over two dozen members of Congress and hundreds of individuals and representatives from many organizations have now signed the document to publicly demonstrate their commitment to reduce energy prices and make our country less reliant on foreign sources of energy. I hope that you will still go to my website (www.house.gov/robbishop), download the document, print it and send it to friends & family and inundate Congress with this petition.

There are a number of petitions out there that do a similar job, for example, Newt Gingrich has his “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign which I support. I believe these and similar pro-energy petitions will play an important role in creating a groundswell of public support for lower prices and greater energy independence.

“More American Energy Pledge”

I’d like to see the Republican Party and the broader conservative online community begin to encourage all Republican members and candidates to sign a campaign pledge (similar to the ATR tax pledge and the Rep. Westmoreland energy petition) committing to support American energy production and to oppose policies that will increase our reliance on foreign energy. This will again put pro-energy candidates on the record as supporting balanced, human focused, energy policies.

As you can see, some of these ideas are already being implemented. Some of them are still in the “idea” phase. The important point is that I want to start a dialogue with you today about how we, as a Party, can convincingly win the energy debate. Now is the time for increased collaboration.

As one of the leaders of the Congressional Western Caucus, we still want a solution to this issue. Whether the actual bill is the Western Caucus’s Americans for American Energy Act or Leaderships’ American Energy Act, they are both good bills and we want to be involved in their passing.

Undoubtedly there are other ideas out there that are meritorious and would help the cause. Please, let me know about them. Like I said, I want this to be a collaborative effort, not one based on me telling you what to do and how to do it. I sincerely believe that a collaboratively designed energy strategy that combines the best ideas in Congress with the creativity, insight, and technological know-how of the best conservative online activists will result in a plan and a product that will show the American people Republicans have real solutions to our energy problems. Plus, if this effort is successful we also may show some of my colleagues in Congress a new way for Republicans to actively collaborate with the online community in their other endeavors.

While I’m still relatively new to the “internets,” I know enough to understand that it’s somewhat unusual to attempt to create a national campaign strategy openly and online. It’s certainly not how we in Congress have worked in the past. I recognize that times have changed, that politics have changed, and that the way we traditionally work in Congress has to change too. We simply must do a better job of working together with the online community and other conservative activists. We need your ideas and your passion to help move Congress in the direction it needs to go. That’s why I wanted to take these ideas directly here to you. I have no doubt that if an energy campaign of the sort described above is to be successful, online activists such as those found here on RedState need to be not only involved in the campaign, but leading it.

I genuinely look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback on this approach.