Abundant, affordable energy is the lifeblood of our economy and our standard of living. Because of energy’s importance in our lives, the ability to produce it safely and securely within our borders is critical. Currently, we are heavily reliant on foreign energy resources from unstable regions of the world, particularly the Persian Gulf. Recent events, including the September 11th terrorist attacks and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have demonstrated how critical a sound energy policy is to our national security.
Therefore our nation’s energy policy must be a comprehensive approach with an emphasis on three priorities:
Increasing our domestic supply of fossil fuels
Developing and cultivating markets for alternative energy (including hydrogen, wind, hydropower, biomass, solar, etc.)
Promoting energy conservation
We have all felt the sharp increase in gasoline prices over the past several years. This has basically affected nearly all aspects of our economy, from the cost of filling up our cars to the increased costs of goods to be shipped across the country. The key to combat skyrocketing gasoline prices is increasing our nation’s supply. That is why Congressman Sweeney supported legislation that encourages the construction of new oil refineries to produce more gasoline here in the United States. He also believes we must explore for more oil within our own borders – including ANWR in Alaska. Of course, these efforts should be supplemented with the development of alternative fuels, such as ethanol and hydrogen, to begin cultivating new ways to power our automobiles. Finally, Congressman Sweeney has supported legislation that combats price gouging of gasoline. Artificially inflating the price of gasoline, especially in times of emergency, is despicable and Congressman Sweeney is committed to bringing perpetrators to justice.
Fuel Economy Standards for Automobiles
Previously Congressman Sweeney opposed efforts to increase fuel economy standards in automobiles. He felt it would have compromised American jobs in the automotive industry. However, due to the skyrocketing cost of gasoline, Congressman Sweeney decided that bold steps are needed to be taken in order to conserve fuel. Therefore, Congressman Sweeney supports legislation that raises the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards from its current 27.5 miles per gallon to 33 miles per gallon.
Long before it became a “hot topic” on Capitol Hill, Congressman Sweeney was working to advance the research and development of alternative and renewable energy sources. Congressman Sweeney has made a point to do this on the local level as well, to make sure the research and development of alternative energy is being performed by workers right here in New York State. His accomplishments include:
A total of $9 million for Plug Power to develop fuel cells for the military.
A total of $2 million for the Center of Excellence in WATER, which includes substantial biomass research and development activities at SUNY Delhi.
$750,000 for RPI to develop a building facade which attracts sunlight and wind and uses it to power the interior lighting of the building.
$850,000 for Delaware County Landfill Power Project at the Delaware County Electric Cooperative (DCEC) to generate electricity from waste gas at a local landfill. This will create low-cost, “green” electricity.
Congressman Sweeney has also called upon the Department of Energy to fully fund its hydrogen and fuel cell programs in their annual budget request.
Natural Gas Drilling
Congressman Sweeney supports lifting the moratorium on offshore natural gas drilling. Due to the high price of natural gas, we need to expand our domestic supply of clean natural gas. There has been a moratorium on drilling offshore since 1981, with the only exception in the western portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina showed us how vulnerable our energy supply is. As the hurricane shut down much of our energy supply, we need to look to other locations and sources of energy production. Newer technology enables us to explore for natural gas with limited risk to the environment. Congressman Sweeney supported legislation that lifted the ban on offshore natural gas drilling and replaced it with a ban on drilling within 50 miles of the coastline. Congressman Sweeney did however, have some concerns with this legislation, with respect to its impact on local tourism. This is why he supported efforts to extend the ban to 125 miles from the coast.
The Dept. of Commerce estimates from 2000-2004, nearly 500,000 jobs were lost each year due to increases natural gas prices. Increased supply of natural gas would lower prices, which helps companies diversify their energy portfolio. This is also good for farmers, as natural gas is a key ingredient in the production of fertilizer.
Home Heating Assistance
High energy costs have placed an extraordinary burden on low-income households as they try to scrape together money to pay their heating bills. Winters in upstate New York typically start well before December 21st and do not end until well past March 21st. Congressman Sweeney remains committed to providing low-income households with assistance they need to heat their homes.
The winter of 2005-2006 was especially expensive for New Yorkers, given the spike in heating oil rates and natural gas rates. Congressman Sweeney worked to secure $2.18 billion in LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) funding for 2006, and fought for the release of $100 million in emergency LIHEAP funds (funds that are only released to the states in times of emergency) in January 2006. Still knowing that there was not enough money on hand for the winter, Congressman Sweeney fought for an additional $1 billion for LIHEAP in the Deficit Reduction Act. Originally, this money would not be available until 2007, but Congressman Sweeney demanded that this money was made available to the states immediately. He was successful and the money began to flow in March.