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Minnesotans need real solutions to gas prices

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ROCHESTER -- As the price of oil and gas reach record levels and Minnesotans feel it in their pocketbooks, and small businesses in their bottom line, it's the same old story in Congress: The Blame Game.

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Congressman Walz's strategy, based on his column last week, is to lay the blame on partisan politics and "Big Oil."

Have the oil companies made big profits lately at the expense of us? Yes. Will the oil companies continue to have record profits as long as demand outpaces production? Yes.

But instead of throwing around blame, let's talk about real solutions. Otherwise, $6-a-gallon gasoline could be just around the corner.

Affordable energy is the lifeblood of a modern economy. In the United States, over 90 percent of the energy consumed in transportation, heating and electricity comes from four sources: oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. In oil production, we are the world's third-largest producer behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. Our coal reserves are the largest of any nation and we produce more nuclear energy on a yearly basis than anyone else. In Minnesota, we are among the leaders in the U.S. in ethanol and wind power production. It should be clear that we need to develop and maintain all sources of energy to keep our economy moving, not just one energy source or the other.

The United States has over 1.7 billion acres of offshore areas where nearly 95 percent have been closed to oil exploration since 1982. The Atlantic Coast, eastern Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and most of the Alaskan Coasts are off-limits. According to published Congressional research, these areas have an estimated total of over 80 billion barrels of oil. But, these are only estimates. Without allowing American oil companies to explore these regions, we won't know how much is there.

What do Congressman Walz and others in Congress offer?

l Blocking increased development of domestic oil supply in federal areas in all but a small portion of those available.

l Legislation that doesn't produce one drop more of oil.

l Cap-and-trade regulatory schemes for utilities and industries that will ultimately tax Americans trillions of dollars and hit rural electric cooperatives particularly hard.

l More hearings and investigations.

l Nationalizing the oil and refinery industries in the United States.

Unfortunately, the politicians in Congress have stood in the way of developing more energy sources in this country. In my view, we should:

l Open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) where an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil exist. There already exists a pipeline in the adjacent Prudhoe Bay region, which contributes over 15 percent to our domestic oil supply. In 1995, President Clinton blocked development of ANWR and in 2002 and 2008 Congress blocked development of this area again.

l Open the Outer Continental Shelf to safe oil and natural gas exploration -- currently only 4 percent of the region is open and 60 percent of Americans favor its development.

l Build more refinery capacity.

l Reduce regulatory barriers to increase nuclear power production, a proven clean and safe form of electricity generation.

l Continue to promote and develop alternative fuels and energy sources including ethanol, biodiesel and wind power.

As the endorsed Republican candidate in our First Congressional District, I hear daily the personal stories of Minnesotans who are being negatively impacted by the lack of leadership from the politicians in Washington. As individuals and our Nation feel the economic straitjacket tightening, we are faced with difficult choices. Americans deserve to know what solutions our elected representatives offer so that our future is secure and our children will know the American dream.

In reality, this is a debate that reveals the stark contrast between those who have lost faith in America's ability to do great things and those of us who know we can.

We must move forward with developing additional American energy supplies, the sooner the better.

Brian Davis trained as a nuclear engineer and worked in the nuclear power industry. He is a physician and a Rochester resident.

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