Lack of energy policy claims jobs in Janesville
Gas prices have stretched our paychecks. As we all learned last week, high gas prices can also eliminate the paychecks of hard-working Americans. Due to high fuel prices and sluggish sales, Janesville’s GM plant will cut its second shift of production of its large SUVs, putting more than 750 employees out of work.
As a fifth generation native of Janesville, I grew up learning the old saying, “As GM goes, so goes Janesville.” These layoffs are a blow to our town and a harsh reminder of the consequences of our incoherent national energy policy.
There are five clear examples of how the federal government has exacerbated our energy crisis, and how Congress could fix it:
Drill for oil—As demand outpaces supply, energy prices continue to soar. North America is home to a tremendous untapped supply of oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Outer Continental Shelf and elsewhere.
Time and again, Congress has been unable to pass legislation that would allow for the environmentally sound exploration of these domestic sources of energy. Unfortunately, the new leadership in Congress refuses to even allow these measures to be considered.
Build more refineries—Congress has the ability to streamline the process for building new refineries. There has not been a single new refinery built in the United States in the past three decades.
I have supported legislation to promote construction of refineries on abandoned military installations. Again, congressional inaction on these reforms has made us increasingly dependent on foreign sources of refined petroleum, directly resulting in higher gas prices.
Streamline fuel blends—Congress should end its mandates for specialized “boutique” fuels for different regions of the country and different seasons of the year.
I have been active on advancing legislation that would cap the required number of reformulated gasoline blends throughout the nation, yet strong opposition from the oil industry has helped kill these efforts. Congress is in a position to take action and end the fragmentation of our gasoline supply.
Don’t rely on food for fuel—The major energy bill passed in this session of Congress has quintupled the ethanol mandate. By converting food to fuel, prices for both have risen. Worse yet, this situation is igniting a counterproductive backlash against farmers.
Congress can promote a more reasonable path to alternative energy by investing in the basic research to develop the ideas of tomorrow, such as using corn stalks and switch grass, rather than food, for energy.
Stop stoking inflation—Additional responsibility rests with the Federal Reserve, whose dramatic interest rate cuts since last fall have pushed crude oil prices to new heights and stoked inflation. Congress has the power to make the Fed’s overriding policy goal to control inflation, and my Price Stability Act of 2008 would do just that.
Janesville is a strong community, and we will get through these challenging times together. The recovery process could be shortened if Congress acts on these common-sense energy solutions.
Paul Ryan of Janesville represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Write to him at the Janesville Constituent Services Center, 20 S. Main St., Suite 10, Janesville, WI 53545; his phone number in Washington, D.C., is (202) 225-3031.