by Kelly Sloan | 4:44 pm, May 4, 2012 | Comments Off
By Eileen McGuire-Mahony and Kelly Sloan
“Harness the wind” may sound like irritating far-left babble, the sort offered up by those more keen to loftily announce that a problem exists than to take on the work of solving it. However, on a sunny afternoon in Grand Junction, it summed up a solution to falling education figures, rising unemployment, and the deep unease many of us have with relying on unstable, hostile, or just plain loathsome governments for our oil.
Last week, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) took a break from the exhausting work of covering Colorado’s 3rd District to sit down with PPC for coffee and to chat about one of his bills. On the agenda was discussing his plan to revitalize American energy and put some of our staggering natural wealth into jobs and education – two beleaguered areas that are vital for bringing the American economy back to life.
In an exclusive interview with People’s Press Collective in Grand Junction, the freshman Representative from Cortez spoke about his Education and Energy bill, which he introduced last year.
The bill, H.R. 3235, would forward royalties collected off of new federal mineral leases to state Education Departments, 33% to the state in which the lease is issued, 17% divided among the rest of the states. The Congressman estimates that of Colorado’s potential share, 70% would go to the vast, rural, energy-rich Western Slope.
According to Tipton, the bill straddles the nexus of encouraging energy development and job creation from federally-controlled lands, and restoring education funding to the states. Tipton says his bill will create jobs by freeing the mineral wealth of federal lands to encourage domestic energy development, while simultaneously using the federal government’s portion of the proceeds to boost state-level education funding in economically straitened times. As he noted, some of the most important mineral-rich federal lands are still located in Colorado. Such a plan could be particularly beneficial to Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, where, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, oil shale may hold four trillion barrels of oil in place — a wealth that dwarfs the Saudi fields.
Tipton sees this as a way to truly embrace an “all-the-above” energy policy, in that any energy-related lease granted on federal land would qualify. Aside from oil shale, other examples include uranium and rare-earth minerals in western Colorado, drilling in ANWR, off-shore oil leases, as well as federal leases for hydro-electric, nuclear, or other types of energy.
The beautiful thing about this initiative is that it is difficult to counter in its entirety; it is generally accepted that state education budgets are stretched thin. It has also long been a lynchpin of talking points on both sides of the aisle that the nation’s test scores are unacceptably low and falling further still. Not only is this at crisis-level right now, it will worsen if students remain under-served in the public education system. Talking with Tipton, it’s clear his dissatisfaction with the education children are receiving in primary school influenced H.R. 3235.
Energy royalties would be returned to the states sans the tangle of strings that characterize so many federal funding programs. While the economy has impacted the availability of public money for education in every state, each state’s situation is unique, and Tipton’s bill aims to give state governments the flexibility to address that problem.
His bill also avoids creating new taxes or increasing existing ones, instead smartly using 2011 baseline figures and simply making smart use of money that is already coming in.
The nation is undeniably in a fiscal crisis, and the critics outweigh those putting forth detailed plans to overcome budgetary shortfalls. Asked about where he is getting resistance on his bill, the Congressman declined to name names, while saying he thinks the opponents of such a plan prefer dividing to developing.
Instead, Tipton got right back to the upsides of his bill, recalling President’s Kennedy’s challenge to Americans to put a man on the moon and saying he sees our current energy deficit as a similar challenge. He hopes to extend the tie between entrepreneurship and energy development to include government owned lands, and to trust in free enterprise.
Nevertheless, every good measure has its enemies, and this bill is no exception. The usual suspects, led by the extreme environmentalist guttersnipes, will of course line up against it, simply because it encourages energy production that might produce energy. We would not be surprised to see some in the national education establishment try to form an argument against it as well, desperate as they are to hold on to their monopoly over education.
Overall, this is a pretty good initiative; it engages the states in encouraging the federal government to open up land for private energy development; it returns money to the states from which it was generated; it breaches some of the most common federal minefields blocking job creation; uses the power of a free market, rather than productivity-asphyxiating tax increases, to help alleviate the nation’s education funding woes; and it places a bit more control into the hands the jurisdiction closest to the people.
In doing so, the bill takes a decent step towards altering the paradigm of how the federal and state governments interact, in the direction of how that relationship was originally intended. And considering how far from that standard we have ventured, this is never a bad thing.
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