SAN DIEGO -- The United States has exciting opportunities it can take advantage of, if the government shows a little common sense and doesn't allow over-regulation to stand in the way. That was the message of Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., speaking Sunday at the American Trucking Associations' Management Conference and Exhibition.
"Some of the things we should be excited about are the dynamics coming together that can impact our economy in an incredible way," he said, comparing the current time in history to the advancements in technology seen with the railroad and telegraph in the decades before Abraham Lincoln became president.
Today, American energy presents a tremendous opportunity, he said. "If there is a more pure formula than more American energy means more American jobs, I don't know what formula that would be." Twenty years ago, he said, people doubted energy independence was a possibility. Today it's happening.
Another big opportunity, he said, will come from increasing global demand for food. "Somehow in the next 55 years we've got to figure out how to double what we've learned to do in the last 10,000 years. And the U.S. will be a source of growing that food and also the technology and distribution of how that happens."
The Panama Canal expansion means the Mississippi River will become more important than it has been in 100 years for food distribution, he predicted.
But threatening all that, Blunt said, are regulations that don't make sense. "The regulators are not only out of control -- they're unaccountable," Blunt said, noting that regulations cost the country $2 trillion a year.
On the energy side, for instance, those opportunities are threatened by regulations limiting the use of American coal and the lack of movement on the Keystone XL pipeline project.
"Fossil fuels for the next 75 years are going to be dominant fuel source in a smart economy," he said, Yes, we need to find ways to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly, but "the idea we're not going to use them makes no sense at all."
In his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, sometimes they can slow down legislation by refusing to appropriate the funds to enforce new rules. "You can't not fund them forever," he said, "but you can not fund them long enough" to find another solution.
He pointed to the committee's accomplishment in winning a vote for trucking on the new hours of service rules.
In June, the committee voted by 21-9 to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studies the impact of the rule. The amendment, offered by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was attached to a Senate bill appropriating transportation funds for fiscal year 2015. It would have stripped funding out of the FMCSA appropriations to enforce the restart rule that took effect in 2013 as part of the new hours of service rules.
The provision did not make it into the House version as had been expected, probably because of the public attention to the issue following a fatal crash that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan.
Nevertheless, Blunt said, it was an example of how government can work in the industry's favor.
"If common sense prevails there is no reason a country as smart as we are, as well positioned as we are, as flexible as we can be, can't dominate this century in economic ways and thought ways the way it did the last. That's something we shouldn't let regulators get in the way of."