Congressman cites energy crisis

HOUMA – In a speech Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, highlighted recent occurrences on the national level; some spelling good news for all while others hint at future challenges for Louisiana and the rest of America.

Tauzin spoke during a joint membership luncheon sponsored by the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Lafourche and the Bayou Region at the Cypress Columns in Gray.

The congressman, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the crowd of nearly 400 chamber members that he and other representatives are working on an energy bill that will have extraordinary implications for Louisiana.

“America depends on Louisiana for so much of its energy, and we depend so much on the production and use of energy in Louisiana for our economy,” Tauzin said.

On Tuesday, he met with Dow Chemical and other representatives of the chemical industries along the Mississippi River to discuss an impending crisis to the state.

At the chambers’ luncheon, he said this crisis begins at the national level “with a notion in America that natural gas is the most favored fuel in America.”

Tauzin used California’s recent energy crisis as a picture of what is going to happen to America if the energy crisis is not soon solved.

In predicting the needs for a national energy policy when the Bush administration came into office, Tauzin said indicators showed a need for 1,800 new major power plants in the U.S. Of this, 90 percent of which would be powered by natural gas.

Nobody wants to build nuclear power plants, even with safer and more efficient technological developments, he said, and added no one wants to build coal plants either, even with cleaner advancements.

“Everybody wants natural gas and we don’t have enough natural gas to go around,” Tauzin said, adding the question, “Where’s the natural gas going to come from?

“We pay twice as much for natural gas as the highest priced gas anywhere in the world,” said Tauzin, saying figures of 40 cents in Russia and even lower numbers in Africa.

The question for Louisiana’s chemical plants is how long they are going to stay in the state when they can go to other countries and produce their chemicals at half the cost. He said the answer is not long and it is the problem now facing Louisiana.

Right now, Tauzin said, we need a visionary governor, calling John McKeithen the last Louisiana head of state to hold such a title for his industrial plans that utilized the natural gas resource.

“If we don’t solve this crisis in Louisiana, we’re in trouble,” he said.

As the state enters its political season, Tauzin challenged candidates to make part of their political discussion finding an answer to how Louisiana, in the middle of a national crisis in natural gas, use the advantage of its proximity and its availability to that resource to ensure, “Louisiana is the last state harmed, not the first state harmed by this crisis.”

Tauzin, who will lead a congressional task force studying the problem, promised to work with whomever is elected as governor to avert the problem in Louisiana. On the upside of his speech, the congressman highlighted four important parts of President Bush’s economic recovery act that make tax cuts this year.

Child care credits of $400 are on their way to families with children, he said.

Second, tax reductions of 12 percent for lower income, 10 percent for middle income and 7 percent for higher income households are now in effect for 2015. Tauzin added that when the press says the economy is going up, it is not a coincidence that tax cuts are going in.

The marriage penalty has been eliminated under the act. He said no longer would married couples pay more than those filing single returns.

Lastly he told of the reduction made to dividend taxes and how this will help seniors. Tauzin said those 65 and older make up two-thirds of the investors of the economy and will be the major beneficiaries of reducing capital gains taxes.

Another congressional move he suggested was the permanent repeal of the inheritance tax. With death being permanent, why just have a temporary repeal of the death tax, he asked. So this year Congress has sent a permanent repeal to the Senate, and Tauzin asked that the chambers help him make sure it passes.

Besides energy problems, Tauzin discussed Medicare reform as being another challenge he hoped to tackle when the congressional session starts again.

Reforming Medicare to include prescription drug benefits for seniors is the major issue of the plan and he said it is the most needed benefit by seniors. Making this $400 billion benefit and modernizing Medicare to not go bankrupt in the future is an important measure he said Congress would address. This year, he will be meeting with other congressmen and senators to bring a bill to President Bush.