Walz and Paulsen push bipartisan energy plan

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of Congressmen – including Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz and Republican Erik Paulsen – have introduced a bill to expand offshore oil and gas production.

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The Jobs and Energy Independence Act would expedite the process for issuing oil and gas exploration leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Over 20 years, the group estimates the proposed bill would generate between $2.2 and $3.7 trillion worth of revenue from leases and production royalties.

That money would fund a variety of priorities, including infrastructure, renewable energy and deficit reduction.

Walz, who was one of about two dozen Democrats to vote with Republicans this week on a series of bills to expand offshore drilling, said the bill is one way for the United States to wean itself from imported oil.

“Spending nearly a half a trillion dollars a year to countries that hate us is insane. They will hate us for free,” Walz said. “We can keep the jobs at home. We can create those jobs that make good, good living wages and we can start moving on that energy independence.”

Republicans touted the measure as a way to avoid raising taxes while demonstrating a willingness to fund alternative energy and transportation projects.

“This legislation would not only increase domestic exploration, but would also invest in clean American energy and our aging infrastructure,” said Rep. Erik Paulsen.

But the bill does face hurdles.

There are currently has no co-sponsors from the Gulf Coast, which would see offshore drilling expand and which is still recovering from last year’s BP oil spill.

Also, none of the bipartisan group’s members could say whether Congressional leadership will push the bill along.

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