Guest column from Senator Tester: Energy Independence this Independence Day

As we prepare to celebrate our nation's birthday this Fourth of July, America faces an urgent need to declare our energy independence.  We've made some progress in the Senate, but we've still got a lot of work to do.

Across Montana, folks are hurting.  High gas prices are squeezing family finances.  Truckers face record high prices for diesel.  Farmers are dealing with skyrocketing input costs like fuel and fertilizer.  And we all feel the pinch of increasing costs for electricity.

I'm working hard in the Senate to pass common sense solutions to address this energy crisis.  Here's what we can do:

  • First, we need to crack down on price gouging and market manipulation.  I support legislation that punishes price gouging by giving the President the authority to declare an energy emergency.  During such an emergency, it would be illegal for the biggest oil companies to set "an unconscionably excessive price" for petroleum products.  This bill also closes the "Enron loophole" that allows speculators in New York and Texas to drive up prices on the oil market. 
  • Although our country cannot simply drill our way out of this energy crisis, we must take advantage of our untapped oil resources in places where it makes sense.    One of the most promising spots is the Bakken Field in eastern Montana and the Dakotas.  We can continue to protect our most environmentally sensitive places like the Rocky Mountain Front and expand production in innovative ways. 
  • We also need to encourage conservation and invest in sustainable energy production for the long term.  One success we've achieved on this issue is the Farm Bill, which for the first time contains a real energy title that will encourage the development of biofuels that do not compete with food crops.  The Farm Bill we passed into law this year contains my provision to promote camelina production.  Camelina is an oil seed crop that can be used to produce biofuels in farm and ranch country and its byproduct makes a nutritious feed for livestock.  It's a win-win solution that makes common sense. 
  • It's also time to invest in other alternative energy resources like wind, solar, geothermal and clean coal technology.  Montana can be a leader for America's energy independence in many ways.   We are already blazing a trail in the area of wind energy development.  We need to pass federal tax legislation written by Montana's senior Senator Max Baucus to extend the production tax credit to encourage development of this sustainable energy resource.

Finally, I hear every day from folks across Montana about their struggles to keep up with surging costs of energy in their daily lives, and on my family farm near Big Sandy, Montana, we feel the pinch every day too.  There's no one single silver bullet that will solve all of our energy needs.  But I'm working hard as your Senator to promote various pieces of the puzzle in a common sense way. 

This Independence Day, I hope we can work together as a nation to declare America's need for energy independence.  And I hope you will keep in touch.