Local congressman calls for Yucca's reopening, offshore drilling, end to ethanol mandate in new bill

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, April 20, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- It's called the EXPAND Act which stands for Energy Exploration and Production to Achieve National Demand.

Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan says energy bills in previous years have expanded the role of government in energy production, but he says his bill would turn things over to the free market.

"It is an all-of-the-above comprehensive energy plan, and it is all of the above. It's not all of the above except x, y and z, which is what the president talks about," said Duncan in a phone interview with News 12.

The legislation would also put Yucca Mountain back on the table. It's the nuclear waste repository in Nevada that would've stored nuclear waste piling up at Savannah River Site, Plant Vogtle and other sites across the country. President Obama terminated it when he took office.

"We want to reset and go back to the science to determine what type of site would be best for geological storage," said Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu to News 12 back in February.

News 12 pressed Dr. Chu on the matter, but his answer was to find another site and start all over again. Duncan says that's unfair to this taxpayers and ratepayers who've already put billions into the current project.

"As I understand it, every time you pay your utility bill, even now, a portion of that utility bill is going to the federal government for that fund," Duncan said.

Besides bringing back Yucca, his energy bill would do other things.

"Offshore drilling is there. It approves the Keystone XL pipeline to bring friendly Canadian oil to the United States. Anything you can think of in the energy realm, it's included in this bill," he said.

The bill also calls for clean energy. It mandates Department of Energy site selection for solar, wind and geothermal projects. The bill would also get rid of the ethanol mandate. That mandate started in 2005. It's where renewable fuels had to be mixed with our oil supply.

The bill also removes tax credits for energy start-ups, so we asked Duncan if that means there shouldn't be loan guarantees for large nuclear projects like the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle. He says loan guarantees are necessary in the nuclear industry and that he's 100 percent pro-nuclear.

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