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THE DETROIT NEWS: Let market choose energy winners

By Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06) -

Many used the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth to reflect on his accomplishments as president: Winning the Cold War and reviving the economy will get most of the attention, and both achievements merit their place in the history books.

Yet Americans should also remember the very first thing Reagan addressed after taking office: energy policy.

I had the great privilege of working for President Reagan, and his successful, free-market approach to energy, which offers important lessons for today's energy debate and its consequences for economic growth and job creation.

Reagan inherited all the energy policy mistakes of the 1970s — a decade in which every energy challenge was met with ill-advised federal programs and mandates.

Lamenting that "restrictive price controls have held U.S. oil production below its potential," Reagan said that eliminating them was "a positive first step towards a balanced energy program."

Within a few years, domestic oil production went up — and prices went down. Affordable energy helped usher in a quarter century of phenomenal economic growth.

In contrast with Reagan's pro-growth energy policies, President Obama's energy moves are Big Government micromanaging straight out of the '70s playbook.

Unfortunately, Obama's State of the Union address offered more of the same: digs at oil producers as purveyors of "yesterday's energy" to be replaced by government-selected "clean energy breakthroughs." The President repeatedly mentioned "clean" but never said "affordable."

In contrast, Reagan considered the latter at least as important as the former, because he understood that affordable, abundant and reliable energy sources are essential to job creation and economic strength.

Reagan never assumed central planning would replace the ingenuity and efficiency of a free marketplace.

Reagan also recognized the threat to the economy — and to freedom — of burdensome, cost-raising environmental measures.

Reagan's famous line that "government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem" is particularly appropriate in describing EPA's global warming power grab.

Ronald Reagan's free-market and limited-government approach to energy has a proven track record. On Reagan's centennial, the current administration would be wise to follow his course.

Congressman Fred Upton is a Republican who represents Michigan’s 6th District. He is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He served in Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget from 1981-1985.


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