Does the CLEAR Act bring us closer to energy independence?

Rep. Phil Roe Contributor
Font Size:

The BP oil spill will be remembered as one of the potentially worst man-made disasters in our history. There’s no question we need strong legislation that will help prevent future accidents like the Deepwater Horizon rig, but unfortunately, House Democrats chose to pursue legislation that will prevent us from exploring for oil with the CLEAR  (Cutting Loose Energy and American Resources) Act.  The CLEAR Act will actually increase our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the number of energy jobs overall, rather than simply focus on cleaning up the spill and preventing its recurrence.

This CLEAR Act also includes a new tax on oil and natural gas produced on all existing and new federal onshore and offshore American leases – which has long been a goal of oil opponents, and dissuades smaller companies from domestic exploration.

Oil companies pay into a fund that is used to cover the costs of an accident. This liability is called to protect smaller companies from bankruptcy.  However, this legislation lifts the liability cap that oil companies have to pay into in the event of a natural disaster.  While I agree that companies like BP should have to pay for the cost of disasters like this, the only result of lifting the cap altogether will be that only large companies like BP will be able to afford to drill for oil.  I don’t believe helping out big oil companies should be the result of any legislation Congress passes.

To further undermine transparency, the bill was narrowly passed under limited debate and restricted amendments.  The legislation was not even shown in its final form until the night before the vote – that’s no way to pass legislation.

As a nation, we are already too heavily dependent on foreign oil, importing nearly 60 percent of our daily use from foreign nations. This means we send billions of dollars overseas to employ foreign oil workers while nearly 10 percent of all Americans are unemployed.  At a time of slow economic growth, this Congress should be focusing on creating American jobs, not killing them.

One matter remains clear: that we don’t need to act irrationally by trying to end oil production. It is imperative, for the sake of our path to energy independence, that we enact responsible reform that ensures we continue producing clean, American-made energy.

Rep. Phil Roe represents the 1st Congressional District of Tennessee.