Just weeks before the House is set to vote on the Democratic cap-and-trade energy bill, Republicans introduced an alternative plan Wednesday that calls for the nation to embrace nuclear power.
The GOP proposal, dubbed the American Energy Act, sets a goal of nearly doubling the nation's nuclear power infrastructure by building 100 new plants in the next 20 years -- calling for streamlined construction regulations, additional tax incentives and lower trade barriers for utility companies.
The bill also focuses on more off-shore domestic exploration of oil, lifts barriers to government purchase of alternatives like oil shale and tar sands, and establishes a trust fund to encourage the development of other new energy sources.
"It is part of an all-of-the-above strategy that offers energy independence, more jobs and a cleaner environment without imposing national energy tax," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the House Republican conference.
The plan resembles the proposal Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pitched during the 2008 presidential campaign, but the GOP nominee set a more conservative of goal of building 45 plants over two decades.
Republicans contrasted their bill with the Democratic energy proposal, the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) act, which is centered around the creation of a system that would establish a federal cap on carbon emissions and create a market to allow utilities to trade pollution credits.
"The Democrats' national energy tax wages economic war on Americas families, business and family farms and it must be opposed," Pence said, arguing that utilities will be forced to raise prices to cope with the new limits and the proposal will further hurt the economy during a recession.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, was a little more blunt.
"They like to call it ACES but I call it C.R.A.P. -- continue ruining America's prosperity," he said.
Unlike the Democratic bill which sets a goal of cutting carbon emissions by 83 percent by 2050, House Republicans argue that a targeted CO2 cut is unnecessary, unrealistic and too costly, and that the constraints on manufacturers will drive them overseas where they face limited pollution constraints.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, ridiculed the Democratic proposal as "lunacy."
"They have the idea that they and that the government can control how much carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere," he said. "At the end of the day we are going to do more for the environment with this all-of-the-above approach than they are with their cap and trade."
Barton added the impact of the Democratic proposal will be catastrophic for industry but negligible on the environment.
"Is it worth it to you to have the trillions and trillions of dollars and millions of jobs lost so that at best, 40 years from the average world temperature, whatever that number means, is two degrees Celsius less than it would be otherwise?," he asked, citing an EPA analysis of the Democratic bill. "I think the answer to that question is no."