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Act Now. Lower Gas Prices. Secure America.

Jun 10, 2008
Columns

Like the gas lines of the 1970’s, today’s gas prices are causing us to dread the gas station. We pay over $4 per gallon, and gas prices continue to rise. This is affecting our commutes to work, our cost of food, and our way of life.  A family living in our Congressional District wrote to me saying, “We are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to get by,” and another resident wrote to me and said, “I cannot afford to go to school or work anymore.” A recent survey found that two-thirds of all Americans have changed what they do in their lives to counter high energy prices.  But we don’t need a survey to tell us that we are facing tough times; we experience it every time we fill up our gas tanks.

Yet, instead of attempting to work together and develop solutions, some in Congress continue to sit back. I believe that Washington needs to stop sitting back, needs to listen, and most of all, begin to act.

Two years ago, on April 24, 2006, the current Speaker of the House stated, “Democrats have a commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices.” However, since this Congress convened on January 4, 2007, gas prices have increased in California by over $1.80 per gallon!  This comes at a time when our families are also experiencing a slowing economy, rising food prices, and a housing slowdown. Washington has demonstrated it is broken on issue after issue. Now is the time for Congress to put aside the partisan bickering because the gas pump does not discriminate between Republicans and Democrats when it charges high gas prices - we all pay high gas prices. 

We need to come together and move forward with solutions for American families, and to each potential solution, we should ask:  will this bring relief to our high gas prices, and help us move toward energy independence – issues at the heart of our national security and economic security?  Increasing taxes on gasoline and American energy production might sound attractive to some people, but how will more taxes lower gas prices? 

We should instead let science work by utilizing America’s energy potential, including oil, wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear energy production.  Newt Gingrich said “drill here, drill now, pay less.” A group of Congressmen formed the House Energy Action Team and put forward a plan that seeks to lower gas prices, by an estimated $2 per gallon. Both of those ideas take into account some of the following five steps I agree we can take today to move us in a direction to achieve energy independence and provide gas price relief:

  • First, increase production of reliable American energy supplies. This reduces our dependence on foreign oil, which can be done by exploring areas in the United States using the latest technology to drill noninvasively and responsibly to respect the environment. By increasing production of oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels, we also invest in American-made energy, help create jobs, and grow the economy.
  • Second, we need to encourage research and development of alternative fuels and energy. This will help offset our dependence on one energy source. I am developing energy legislation that will encourage forward-thinking investment in American clean fuel innovations and continue all types of clean electricity we see produced in our own neighborhoods – like the wind energy in Tehachapi, geothermal at China Lake, and solar in Mojave – to become a reality throughout America. 
  • Third, we need to reduce the red tape. Government should encourage responsible energy production, not kill it.  As America competes with other countries in a global economy, we need to ensure the regulations we have in place allow us to remain at the cutting edge of energy production, while also protecting our environment. We need to streamline the permitting processes for energy, and continually review regulations and mandates that may be increasing energy prices.
  • Fourth, we need to encourage the construction of new refining capacity. Currently, oil refineries are operating at over 90% of their capacity, and when a refinery needs maintenance or encounters damage from a natural disaster, gas supplies are reduced, resulting in higher gas prices. If we plan ahead by constructing new refineries, we can prepare ourselves for gas price spikes when a refinery goes offline. Additionally, by increasing the number of refineries, we invest in our energy infrastructure and help meet our increasing need for energy.
  • Fifth, we need to work to reduce our consumption of gasoline by encouraging greater energy efficiency and conservation efforts. That is why I have supported higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and tax incentives for new technologies.
     
    By taking these initial steps, I believe we can stabilize and reduce gas prices, encourage energy independence, and help grow our economy. We have ideas and a vision of energy independence. But to make this a reality, we need action.
     

Republicans and Democrats need to roll up their sleeves, come together, offer their ideas, and act.  So my challenge to the Democrat and Republican leaders in the House is to allow a week of open debate on the floor so that all Members can offer legislative ideas to provide gas price relief, and so the American people can watch the debate, listen to the merits of each idea, and see ideas voted on.
 

We live in a great country, and have overcome many challenges. Energy independence and relief at the pump are challenges we can, and we must, work together to solve. We can ensure our energy challenges today become opportunities for our children tomorrow.