Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced Monday that he plans to introduce an omnibus energy bill that will focus on scaling down regulation and scaling up production in the oil and gas industry.
Cruz, speaking at the Heritage Action for America’s Conservative Policy Summit in D.C., said he was introducing the American Energy Renaissance Act to stop the federal government from preventing America’s “energy renaissance” — the ability to access underground natural gas and oil stores that Cruz said is “providential blessing” for the country. The announcement heralds a change of focus for Cruz, who has devoted much of his attention over the last few months to Obamacare and gun rights.
“The energy revolution didn’t come from the U.S. Department of Energy,” Cruz said during his speech Monday. “It didn’t come from a grant program picking, ‘this is how were going to transform energy.’ It came from entrepreneurs.”
Here’s what Cruz said the American Energy Renaissance Act will do, if it’s passed:
1. Prevent the federal government from regulating fracking. Fracking is excluded from many federal environmental laws, leaving it up to the states to develop their own regulations on the practice. Cruz’s bill would prevent the federal government from ever imposing regulations on fracking, which has been linked to earthquakes (including in Texas) and has been found to produce billions of gallons of toxic wastewater.
2. Approve Keystone XL. Cruz said that Keystone XL should be a no-brainer for all of America, even the “Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging Greenpeace activist,” because it will reduce our dependency on oil shipped across the ocean and therefore reduce the threat of oil spills (Cruz didn’t mention the risk of spills from Keystone XL, which won’t come equipped with the latest spill-detecting technology). The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline runs through Texas.
3. Force Congress to vote on EPA regulations. Cruz said forcing Congress to vote on EPA regulations that “kill jobs” would help end President Obama’s War on Coal. EPA regulators don’t need to be held accountable to citizens when making these regulations, Cruz said; members of congress do, and they likely won’t vote for environmental regulations if people in their home state are worried about those regulations killing jobs. In reality, the 30-year decline in coal jobs in Appalachia in particular is due more to increased automation of mining and competition from cheaper coal out West than to power plant regulations.
4. Increase drilling on public lands and Native American lands, and allow states to lease energy development on federal lands. Cruz said that Native Americans are being kept in poverty because of federal regulations that make drilling permits on Native American land difficult to obtain. He also said states could “do a better job” than the federal government at deciding how to use the oil and gas resources on federal land. A 2013 poll of Western states, however, found that Westerners opposed turning authority of federal public lands over to the states.
5. Increase offshore exploration. Despite environmental concerns, offshore drilling may experience an increase even without Cruz’s bill — the U.S. Department of Energy expects offshore oil production from the lower 48 states to grow 18 percent from its 2011 level by 2020.
6. End the ban on crude oil exports and reduce regulatory barriers to exporting coal. The call to end the U.S.’s crude oil export ban has been echoed by other lawmakers, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK), but most environmental activists oppose ending the ban, saying exported oil and gas will only increase carbon emissions and could even increase the price of gas.
Cruz, has said there “remains considerable uncertainty” about what is causing climate change, also told the Heritage audience Monday that he was surprised it was so cold in D.C. “Al Gore told us this wouldn’t happen,” he said.