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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-23)

In 1973, I would guess that most car owners could recite their license plate number from memory. When the oil embargo struck, Americans faced a shortage of gasoline, leading to hour-long lines at gas stations where drivers could only fill up on certain days based on the last number of their license plate.

Thirty years later, more than 50 million people in the Northeast lost power due to a cascading series of outages on the electric grid. This fifth-largest blackout in history came just a few years after rolling blackouts gripped my home state of California, disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families and businesses.

Fast forward to today; there is hope. Our energy and geopolitical landscape is vastly different from just ten years ago. We are witnessing an energy renaissance largely driven by technological advances and the uniquely American spirit of entrepreneurship. More oil is being produced in the United States than the past twenty years and natural gas production reached a record high in 2012. In addition to these headline grabbers more coal, windmills, and solar arrays are powering our homes and filling up the batteries on our smartphones and iPads. Coupled with declining demand from more efficient cars and consumer products, these trajectories are helping our country surge toward something once thought laughable, an America where we produce more energy than we consume.

However, this light at the end of the tunnel can easily be dimmed through misguided government policies and regulations that obstruct our new energy potential. That is why the House will soon debate the Keystone XL pipeline, increased production on federal lands, and the usefulness of bureaucratic mandates from the past that are sapping our energy future. All of these solutions should be embraced as a down payment to something broader, something achievable, something sustainable; all-American energy independence.

All-American energy independence means trusting the lights will go on when you need them, gasoline for today and tomorrow’s vehicles will be available and affordable, and energy producers – in partnership with science, research, and private-sector entrepreneurs – will continue to push the envelope for more efficient and environmentally respectful ways to produce the energy that powers our lives.

But a vision without a plan is nothing more than an illusion. All-American energy independence means taking a hard look at energy production, distribution, reliability, and efficiency. Just look at our current system for delivering American-made energy throughout the country; it is outdated and inefficient.

Imagine, not 20, 30 years from now, but by the next decade producing enough energy to meet our own needs and actually become a net exporter, not importer. Imagine our distribution and transmission systems upgraded with smarter technologies to avoid blackouts and market disruptions that are harmful to Americans. These desirable goals will be powered more effectively by what we can find under the ground and by what we can harness above ground.

Our country has been blessed with incredible natural resources, but more importantly, creative minds that can lead us to a nation where energy, no matter the circumstance, is available to power our quality of life today and our dreams and opportunities of tomorrow. The energy debates of the past must give way to the energy vision of the future, where we agree to move our country toward all-American energy independence, and find solutions – drilling, harnessing, constructing, but also researching, advancing, and improving – that achieve this plan.

Along with some pro-energy House Democrats, the House Republican Conference will take the first steps toward this goal so that gas station lines of the 1970’s, the large-scale blackouts of the 2000’s, and the price spikes of today are permanently in our nation’s rear view mirror. The question is whether President Obama and Senate Democrats join us in our drive toward All-American energy independence.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy represents of California’s 23rd district, serves as the Majority Whip and is chairman of the House Energy Action Team.