Earth Day is a time for us to celebrate our progress and renew our commitment to do the work still undone. We can be proud of our progress on the “North Coast” with the doubling of the acreage of wildlife refuges and parkland held in public trust and extensive efforts to clean up Lake Erie’s tributaries as just two of the measures of our success. On this Earth Day [April 22] we can pledge anew our commitment to clean air and water and add to the challenge we place before us, an alternative energy future worthy of the greatest ingenuity this great land has to offer.
Over the past five years, Congress has pursued a 19th century energy policy, focusing on fossil fuels—rather than the 21st century energy policy that we need. Meanwhile, oil has soared past $70 a barrel, and you and I are paying record prices at the pump. We need an energy policy for all of us, not for the oil and gas industry. I believe energy policy is a matter of national security and of environmental integrity.
Over the last five years, the U.S. dependence on oil imported from other countries, including countries in unstable parts of the world, has grown—rather than been reduced. In 2000, we were importing 53 percent of our oil—now we’re importing 60 percent. Our country is capable of setting this new course but, like the commitment over 30 years ago that created Earth Day, we’ll need the will.
In our region, progress is being made toward a new energy future. In East Toledo, construction of a new $17 million plant is proposed to refine renewable soybean oil from our farmer’s fields for use as diesel fuel. Our regional transit authority is integrating a mixture of biodiesel fuels and petroleum-based diesel fuel into its fleet operations. Our region’s work in solar panel research and production is path-breaking while a study I commissioned through the U.S. Department of Energy will soon be underway to measure the potential for Lake Erie and its environs to become the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy.”
With others in Congress, I am working to implement a plan that could help our region and the United States achieve energy security by 2020. Our plan calls for significantly increasing production of alternate fuels from America’s heartland including bio-fuels, geothermal, clean coal, fuel cells, solar and wind; promoting hybrid and flex fuel vehicle technology and manufacturing; and enhancing energy efficiency and conservation incentives. With the American can-do spirit and technological know-how, we can work together to revolutionize our sources of energy and care for the planet too.
On this, our 36th Earth Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the historic clean air and water protections that resulted from our first celebration of the planet, and let us pledge to make steady and real progress toward a new energy future that also protects Mother Earth for our children and grandchildren.