The cost of energy is killing this country. That's what U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson told Forsyth County Rotarians during their annual countywide meeting Monday afternoon.
But with approval of a comprehensive agreement he co-authored, America can be on the path toward energy independence, the Republican from Cobb County said.
Dubbed New ERA, the New Energy Reform Act includes what Isakson called bipartisan compromises toward an energy solution.
The multistep strategy was announced the day senators left for their August break. The time lapse, Isakson said, will allow senators to stop the back-and-forth bickering, "go home and listen to what the American people had to say."
"Because they don't care who is right, they just want us to get it right together," he said.
Isakson's talk drew members of the five Rotary Clubs in Forsyth County to Johns Creek Baptist Church.
The senator said the energy strategy includes lifting offshore drilling in phases, beginning with the Southeastern states and the Gulf of Mexico. The plan also promotes nuclear power, a solution both touted and criticized by national legislators.
Isakson said "nuclear won't do it all."
"We ought to equally 'incentivize' wind and solar and take away the disproportionate incentives," he said.
The bill also targets the auto industry via the "Apollo project," a $20 billion plan offering incentives for research and development to the automotive industry.
The goal is to "perfect the plug-in battery vehicle, so that in 2028, 100 percent of the U.S. fleet of vehicles, automobiles, is running by batteries, not by gas," Isakson said.
"We already know we can do that."
Isakson also addressed the Bush administration's decision Sunday to take control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage backers that own or guarantee more than half the country's mortgage market.
The federal takeover is an attempt to help stabilize the market and bring down rates, a decision Isakson said was wise.
Isakson called the struggle "more a crisis of perception than a crisis of reality, but in the financial markets, perception is reality when it comes to pricing."
"Nobody is being bailed out," he said. "What is happening is we are assuring the liquidity in capital markets as far as mortgages and the responses overseas to the people who hold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paper has been extremely good, which is precisely what we wanted to happen."
When it comes to real estate issues, Isakson has an edge over fellow senators, given his 30 years in the industry.
With his experience, Isakson helped work on legislation to help stimulate the housing market. Like the New ERA, this legislation includes multiple solutions to attack the problem at each level of involvement.
Among the solutions: offering loan counseling; tax benefits to first-time homebuyers; and providing insurance capabilities to help refinance troubled loans.
"Lenders want to recast loans," he said. "They would rather recast a troubled loan into a loan that is manageable and performing than to foreclose."
Isakson also addressed health care, which he said would be the No. 1 domestic issue for the next president.
"The fundamental foundation ... needs to be built on wellness and disease management," he said. "If it is, we can change the paradigm in this country and save the best health care system in the world."