The Fuse

Senator Rob Portman on How Energy Efficiency Improves National Competitiveness

by Leslie Hayward | August 06, 2015

Rob Portman is a Republican Senator from the state of Ohio. He took the time to discuss energy policy and security with The Fuse in an exclusive interview. 

Why do you believe energy efficiency is a priority for the United States, and how has bipartisan support for energy efficiency changed over recent years?

America needs a national energy strategy that reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources and ensures we have access to reliable, affordable, and cleaner domestic energy. Energy efficiency is a key component of this strategy. Using our domestic energy supplies more efficiently not only protects the environment, but will also save businesses and consumers money on their energy bills. Transitioning to a more energy efficient economy will help spur job growth, enhance our economic competitiveness, and increase our energy security for the future.

What impact has the shale gas boom had on the economy of Ohio?

The shale gas boom has stabilized energy prices, diversified our economy, and created over 200,000 jobs in Ohio alone, from drill sites down to supply chains.

Technological improvements in harnessing natural gas from shale formations have helped the United States reverse a decades-long decline in energy production to become one of the largest oil and natural gas producers in the world today. The exploration of Eastern Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus Shale has aided in the resurgence of energy production that has attracted more jobs and investment domestically, contributing to greater employment and more reliable energy supplies for Ohioans. The shale gas boom has stabilized energy prices, diversified our economy, and created over 200,000 jobs in Ohio alone, from drill sites down to supply chains.

Has the decline in oil prices reduced the urgency and political will in Washington to pursue policies aimed at reducing oil consumption? 

Rather than looking at the present price of oil, Congress should be looking further into the future to develop a long-term plan that reduces our dependency on foreign oil.

Growth in the global economy, unexpected reductions in oil supplies, and speculative trading have historically caused the price of oil to fluctuate dramatically. Therefore, rather than looking at the present price of oil, Congress should be looking further into the future to develop a long-term plan that reduces our dependency on foreign oil, encourages investment in cleaner, affordable domestic energy, and prioritizes energy efficiency and conservation

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, which you and Senator Shaheen spearheaded, was signed into law in April. Does this legislative victory serve as an indication that there is momentum to tackle broader energy policy issues?

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act garnered widespread support because of a simple fact—it is good for the economy and good for the environment. This is an important part of our energy strategy to help bring jobs back, make our manufacturers more competitive, and actually help protect the environment. Specifically, the bill promotes the use of energy efficiency technologies in industrial, commercial, and residential areas in ways that will lower overall consumption and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass my larger energy efficiency bill, S. 720, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which was reported out of committee on July 30, 2015 by a vote of 20 to 2.

I was pleased that this legislation was signed into law, and I am looking forward to using the momentum from this legislation to continue developing policies that will contribute to our national energy strategy by strengthening the economy and reducing pollution. Specifically, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass my larger energy efficiency bill, S. 720, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which was reported out of committee on July 30, 2015 by a vote of 20 to 2.

Beyond efficiency, what additional measures do you recommend to reduce energy and especially oil demand?

When we invest in research and development of these advanced technologies, such as programs to advance the fuel efficiency in automobiles or reduce the use of energy in commercial buildings, we can reduce our demand for oil.

We need to have a comprehensive national energy plan that encourages the use of all energy sources—including natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and others. Additionally, we should support technological advancements that will lead to more efficient energy use. When we invest in research and development of these advanced technologies, such as programs to advance the fuel efficiency in automobiles or reduce the use of energy in commercial buildings, we can reduce our demand for oil. Supporting advanced energy efficient technologies will not only create jobs at home but it will also reduce our dependence on foreign oil and promote American enterprise.

What policies do you think need to be put in place to safely increase domestic production of oil and gas?

With the advent of the shale boom and the exploration of Eastern Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus Shale, we must ensure that unnecessary federal regulations do not hinder the development of new energy production. Therefore, states should have more control over ensuring that all of our nation’s natural resources are harnessed safely and effectively. In Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management is responsible for regulating all aspects of oil and gas drilling to ensure the safety of Ohio’s citizens and the environment.

The Ohio Legislature has established one of the toughest regulatory frameworks for overseeing the exploration and drilling of natural gas, including well construction standards and protections for groundwater and the environment. The work of ODNR and the Ohio Legislature is imperative in reviewing and updating Ohio’s laws to ensure safe extraction in the advent of new technologies and research.

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