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Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the fifth annual Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum in Washington Nov. 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Gary Cameron) Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the fifth annual Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum in Washington Nov. 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)  

Cruz: use ‘energy renaissance’ to pay down national debt

The United States is in the midst of an “energy renaissance” that can be harnessed to help pay down the $17 trillion national debt, says Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz spoke at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Monday to outline his plan to boost jobs and the economy through expanded energy production. Cruz’s American Energy Renaissance Act aims to boost U.S. energy production by cutting down on government regulation, opening up federal lands for oil and natural gas operations and boosting energy exports. The bill also dedicates additional revenues raised from increased energy production to paying down the national debt.

“What we’re doing to our kids and grandkids is wrong,” Cruz said at an event hosted by Heritage Action, the Heritage Foundation’s political arm. He added that tying such revenues to paying down the national debt would increase the “political price” for Congress to use the funds for pet projects.

“Economic growth, the energy revolution, didn’t come from the U.S. Department of Energy,” Cruz said. “It came from entrepreneurs, putting capital at risk and meeting a need.”

Republicans have been criticizing the Obama administration for promoting green energy and blocking oil and gas drilling on federal lands — and in offshore areas — in the midst of an energy boom. Oil and gas production on state and private lands while production has fallen on federal lands.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling have allowed drilling companies to extract oil and natural gas from shale formations deep underground. Environmentalists argue that fracking contaminates groundwater — though this has not yet been proven.

“There is no reason for the federal government to get in the way of fracking,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s bill would block the Obama administration from regulating fracking on federal lands and would streamline permitting for building new refining capacity and for pipelines. The bill would also approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

“If you are a birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, Greenpeace activist, you should love the Keystone pipeline,” the senator quipped, arguing that a pipeline is more eco-friendly than oil tankers.

The American Energy Renaissance Act would also stop Environmental Protection Agency rules that target the coal industry and force congress to vote on any EPA regulation that would cost the economy jobs.

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