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Focus on Sustainable Energy Solutions

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The House plans to vote on the misleadingly named Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 today under a suspended rule. The legislation seeks to open up 8.3 million additional acres in the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. It is unlikely that the House will pass this Senate-approved legislation with the two-thirds majority it needs under a suspension of the rules, but House leadership has promised that it will bring the bill up for a vote under normal rules that only require a simple majority later in the week.

This legislation, passed by the Senate in August, will set aside 12.5 percent of production revenues for the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund—a move which should be lauded. Yet this environmental funding comes at the near-certain endangerment of a fragile ecosystem.

Offshore drilling is a hollow solution. It spills an average of 400 gallons of oil and gas every day. And additional drilling in the Gulf of Mexico would provide only four months of oil at the current rate of American consumption, and this oil would take seven years to extract.

Congress has already spent too much time on oil-focused solutions that yield minimal results. We must concentrate on sustainable solutions that focus on kicking America’s oil habit and investing in cleaner energy alternatives.

In February, the Center for American Progress offered a three-step plan to boost the economy, reduce oil consumption, and protect the environment:

1. Provide farmers the financial tools and expertise to shift towards the production and processing of energy crops.

2. Transform the transportation sector by mandating that all passenger vehicles run on high blends of biofuels and gasoline—or flex fuels—within a decade and expand tax incentives for gas stations that install biofuel pumps.

3. Recognize the threat of global warming by enacting a national carbon cap and trade mechanism that allows farmers and drivers to benefit from the production and use of biofuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Americans overwhelmingly support initiatives like these: 86 percent want the government to raise fuel efficiency standards, and 90 percent think the government should do more to support renewable fuels. It is time for the government to heed the call of the American people and focus its energy on sustainable energy solutions.

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