When it comes to energy, this nation's leaders must be willing to act

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How should the United States address the current energy crisis?

Should we open up more of the nation's untapped oil resources, allowing off-shore drilling as well as exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)? Should we allow for the construction of new refineries? Or is the solution to encourage conservation and offer incentives to companies to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative transportation? Should we increase our efforts to develop wind and solar energy and other alternative energy sources? Or is the answer to allow the construction of new nuclear power plants?

The options are many. The answer is simple: Yes, on all accounts.

If any good can come from the current crisis, it will be to force this nation out of its reliance on foreign oil and into a new wave of exploration and self-sufficiency.

The question: Will our nation's leaders allow this to happen?

This is no time for political posturing, but that seems to be exactly what has happened as Congress has weighed in on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is taking a "wait and see" attitude toward lifting the moratorium on offshore oil drilling. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes the measure out-right.

Meantime, they're just hoping all of us will blindly accept $5 a gallon gas while the majority of the American people ? some 75 percent ? believe that we need to increase our domestic drilling and other efforts.

It only makes sense.

The American people are conserving. For the seventh month in a row, residents of Virginia and drivers all across the country, are driving less. Fuel prices have come down over the past couple of weeks, some 20 cents or more locally, but that solution will only go so far. The global demand for crude oil is going to go up over the long term and this nation must be ready to take care of itself.

A multi-faceted approach is the only logical solution.

Instead of restricting the marketplace, Congress must be willing to promote innovation and utilize that which we have available on our own soil. One such piece of legislation introduced by more than 100 members of Congress is the American Energy Act. That legislation seeks to modernize this nation's energy policy through a variety of areas: opening up ANWR and off-shore drilling, constructing new refineries, encouraging the development of nuclear energy, improving energy conservation efforts and promoting innovation for alternative and renewable technologies.

Many of these won't have immediate impacts, but the efforts will pay long-term dividends. It's unfortunate we had to wait until the problem got serious before taking action, but that's where we're at. Failing to pursue any and all of the possible answers will just put us further behind. If we start now, we'll have real solutions in the coming years. If we don't, the problem is only going to get worse.

Some who oppose new drilling and nuclear power suggest all this country needs to do is drive less ? ride a bike, walk more or take public transportation ? and develop wind or solar energy. That's a short-sighted view, and many times it's also disingenuous. Al Gore, as an example, touts such measures while showing up to appearances in motorcades ? not bikes ? and also using more than twice the energy at his own home in one month than the typical American family uses in one year.

And while some of those same people think high gas prices force us to conserve, and therefore aren't such a terrible result, they fail to see that those high prices impact the poor and middle class the most.

It's time to put politics aside and work for the good of this nation and its citizens.