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Ted Cruz: GOP needs to ‘think bigger than Keystone’

President Obama should allow the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but Republicans need to start coming up with other ideas to boost the nation's energy output, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) plans to argue Monday.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). (Associated Press)

The freshman senator, perhaps best known in recent months as one of the most strident critics of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, plans to use a speech at a conservative policy conference Monday to start shifting his focus to other areas of concern, chiefly U.S. energy policy.

Aides said the senator is working on a bill that he plans to call the American Energy Renaissance Act and will outline its general principles during a speech at the Heritage Action for America's Conservative Policy Summit in Washington.

"There is only one thing that will stop us from embracing it to its full potential: the federal government," Cruz will say, according to prepared remarks provided by aides. "Nothing else will stop the next generation of American energy pioneers. It won’t be lack of determination, ingenuity, or grit. It will be some faceless bureaucrat sitting somewhere in some tall building who simply says, 'You’re not allowed to do that.' Or worse, 'We’ll do that for you.' "

"Yes, President Obama should drop his political opposition to the Keystone pipeline," Cruz plans to say. "But we also need to think bigger than Keystone. We need an energy policy that goes beyond Keystone. Here we stand with our toes at the edge of an energy revolution that could sweep the nation, providing an untold number of new opportunities and well-paying jobs."

Cruz is expected to advocate for more offshore oil exploration; increasing energy development on federal lands; loosening federal restrictions on hydraulic fracturing by leaving environmental and permitting concerns up to state governments; ending the crude oil export ban; and ending Environmental Protection Agency regulations that he believes adversely affect the nation's coal and electric power plans.

He plans to cite the recent success of North Dakota and Texas, two states with impressive economies that rely mostly on the energy sector.

"The government will not solve our economic problems by controlling the economy," he will argue, according to the prepared remarks. "The only thing that it must do is what it did in the Ronald Reagan era: get out of our way and let Americans do what they do best -- dream, innovate and prosper. It’s happening in Texas and it's happening in North Dakota. Now, we just have to convince Washington to let it spread through the rest of America."

Cruz's decision to discuss his ideas about energy policy doesn't signal that he's dropping his focus on the health-care law, the aides said. Rather, the proposals should be viewed as a "proactive way to create jobs" by using the nation's energy resources.

The question of whether to provide a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would cross the U.S-Canada border, has gained political urgency now that the State Department has finalized its environmental impact assessment of the project. But a final decision is months away, and the White House is likely to resist any congressional pressure to issue a permit quickly.

Generally, Cruz’s ideas are drawn from proposals that have failed to gain traction for years, including drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and transferring control of federal lands to the states. His plan even takes on a hallmark of the George W. Bush administration: the renewable fuel standard. Obama has shown little willingness to allow drilling off the Outer Continental Shelf in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with the exception of off Alaska, and even that activity has been plagued by technical and legal obstacles.

More broadly, the plan foreshadows the congressional fights the Obama administration will face as it presses ahead with the president’s climate action plan. As the EPA moves ahead with regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants this year, it will have to defend these proposals on Capitol Hill. The administration has won these votes in the past, but it will put pressure on centrist Democrats facing reelection in the fall.

Cruz also takes on an emerging fight in national energy policy: fossil fuel exports. Environmental activists argue that any coal, oil or gas exports from the United States make no sense, because they will add to the global carbon output once they’re burned, but the Obama administration has not adopted a consistent approach to the issue. It has begun to allow some LNG terminals but not as rapidly as some industry activists have requested; Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz has raised the prospect of allowing crude oil exports again but has not formally asked Congress for that authority. And the Army Corps of Engineers is weighing whether to approve a few major coal export terminals off the West Coast.

The Conservative Policy Summit will feature speeches and panel discussions with some of the most prominent conservative Republicans in Congress, including Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cruz.



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