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Opening Statements

Thompson Underscores the Importance of Energy Independence at Full Committee Hearing

"Access to affordable energy is access to freedom, both political and economic"

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to echo you in welcoming our witnesses to today’s hearing. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and perspectives.

I am always excited to talk about energy. Pennsylvania's 15th Congressional District is steeped in a diverse history of energy production.

We are home to the nation's first ever commercial oil well, the Commonwealth's only ethanol plant, and the oldest continually operating oil refinery in the U.S. 

More recently, America has become the world’s largest producer and exporter of natural gas, while at the same time reducing U.S. emissions. The Appalachian Basin alone—which includes the Marcellus Shale—represents the third largest producing region in the world, behind Russia and the rest of the U.S. We are incredibly proud of our role in powering not only the Commonwealth’s economy but also the nation, our allies abroad, and the globe.

I want to start this hearing with a proposition I think should underpin our discussion today: access to affordable energy is access to freedom, both political and economic. One need look no further than the nations of Europe, who are shackled to Russian energy and Putin’s pipelines. 

Without sufficient energy resources of their own, they have lost the freedom to dictate their foreign policy. Despite our common democratic values, they are forced to pour money into Russia to protect their citizens from the devastating costs of losing access to affordable, reliable energy. 

This is what an all-of-the-above energy plan is about. It’s about making sure everyone in America who needs energy has access to reliable energy when they need it.

Rural communities are no different. Rural electrification in the 1930s and 1940s brought new jobs, new technology, and new opportunities to millions of people.

And today, as we continue to build and improve our nation’s electric grid, expand access to energy, and deploy smart, renewable resources on farms and in communities, the USDA Energy programs continue to bring new opportunities and economic growth to rural America.

But, the expansion of new sources of renewable energy—ethanal, solar, wind, biogas, and more—cannot be done at the cost of every traditional source of power. We simply do not have the capacity to replace the energy from fossil fuels overnight. When expanding our production of renewable energy, we must ensure sufficient energy resources exist and remain to power the baseload needs of our nation and our economy.

But, we don’t need to look to Europe to see the damage insufficient energy resources can do. We’ve seen it firsthand, right here in our own country. At best, limited access to energy resources means increased energy prices. Increased prices force those with too little to sacrifice their other needs, so they can devote an ever-larger share of their income to procuring the electricity and fuel that powers modern life. At worst, limited access to energy resources means arbitrary and indiscriminate energy rationing like the gas lines of the 1970s or the rolling blackouts of a California summer.
 
These are arbitrary, man-made crises and the predictable outcomes of policy grounded in wishful thinking and naivety. These are experiences we should carefully consider before we commit the United States to a policy of slow energy asphyxiation.

Failure to provide sufficient, accessible, affordable, and reliable energy for the needs of our citizens will rob them of opportunities and options, and the freedom to choose among them.  
 
Fortunately, that does not need to be our fate. We can promote renewable energy in smart and sensible ways so economic growth and emission reductions complement one another. 

In particular, many of the projects funded through USDA’s energy programs, including the Electric Loan Program, REAP, and RESP are tools to help communities and businesses diversify and expand their energy options, promote energy efficiency, and strengthen their energy resiliency.
 
I look forward to learning about the growing opportunities for renewable energy in rural America and how expanding our nation’s energy portfolio can bring dividends to us all.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

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