Sen. Rand Paul should update his energy talking points to more closely match reality.
In explaining his vote against the first comprehensive energy legislation in almost a decade, Paul’s office issued a statement Wednesday in which he said, “What we really need is a government that stops picking winners and losers and gets out of the way of the energy market.”
You can’t help but wonder: What part of “world’s No. 1 producer of both oil and natural gas” does Paul not understand?
Not that long ago the United States feared gas lines and being at the mercy of foreign energy producers. Now the United States outproduces everyone, friends and rivals alike.
This country’s shale energy boom, which shows no signs of slacking, has, as Bloomberg reported, pushed down global energy prices (translation: cheap gasoline) and spurred the return of manufacturing as the United States has replaced imported energy with domestic sources.
The energy bill, drafted by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, achieved a bipartisan majority by putting together practical approaches on which everyone (except Paul and 11 others) could agree, including requirements to modernize the electrical grid and protect it from cyber attacks.
The Senate measure, which must be reconciled with a far inferior House version, would help the systems that deliver power to U.S. homes and businesses catch up with the dramatic changes that have occurred in the energy landscape, including the emergence of wind and solar power.
The bill also authorizes increased spending on energy research, including carbon-capture techniques that could preserve coal as a viable power source. Rather than interfering with the market, such government-backed research is essential to U.S. competitiveness.
One victim of the natural gas boom has been the coal industry. In Central Appalachia, the region’s depleted, and therefore expensive to mine, coal has been unable to compete in the market with the flood of cheap and much cleaner-burning natural gas, especially as pressure mounts on utilities to respond to climate change.
An effort by Paul to throw a lifeline to coal regions as part of the energy debate fell short. Kentucky’s junior senator tried to attach his “economic freedom zones” plan to the energy bill as an amendment. It failed, 33-64. Paul’s idea is to drastically reduce taxation and regulations in economically depressed areas such as Eastern Kentucky in hopes of spurring development and jobs.
Like his talking points, Paul’s plan better reflects his libertarian philosophy than realities on the ground.
The most practical solutions to Eastern Kentucky’s desperate need for an economic boost are coming from U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and the Obama administration.
Particularly worthy, Roger’s RECLAIM Act could employ out-of-work miners now by returning $1 billion that coal regions are owed by a federal program for repairing environmental damage from mining.
So far, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, is the only Kentuckian to sign up as a co-sponsor.
Paul and the other Republicans in Kentucky’s delegation should get on board.