Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pain at the Pump

By Rep. Joe Barton


When I went to fill up my car the other day I had a case of déjà vu.
Gas prices are skyrocketing and some experts say they won’t stop until they hit $5 a gallon. It’s like I stepped into a time machine and travelled back to the Summer of 2008.
In these same pages I wrote a column proclaiming: Cheaper gasoline is within our grasp.
Back then it was a Democrat-led Congress holding our energy policy hostage, now it is a Democratic President.
Democrats on Capitol Hill took every chance they got to block or delay Republican plans to increase home-grown energy production. While they are no longer in power, it appears President Obama is using the same playbook.
He started by issuing a drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico. And when a judge said it had to be lifted, the Obama Administration just stopped issuing drilling permits.
Unrest in the Middle East has sent oil prices over $100 a barrel, and our lack of energy production has left us without a buffer.
Gas prices have gone up rapidly in the past few weeks stifling the positive economic gain we have made recently. According to one major energy analyst, for every penny the price of gasoline increases, it costs consumers nationwide an additional $4 million per day.  That equals $1.4 billion over an entire year.
The good news is just like back in 2008: Cheaper gasoline is within our grasp.
Here are some easy steps to save you money at the pump:
• End De Facto Drilling Moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.  The Interior Department’s decision to issue only a handful of shallow water permits and one deepwater permit since the Deepwater Horizon explosion last April is hurting our economy.   According the Administration’s own estimates, the moratorium has resulted in 12,000 lost jobs and rigs are actively leaving the Gulf for foreign countries like Cuba, Brazil and Mexico.  According to the EIA, production in the Gulf has declined by nearly 300,000 barrels a day since last April.
• Increase Offshore Production.  President Obama has placed the entire Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast and the Eastern Gulf off-limits to future energy production – as it was before Congress lifted the moratorium in 2008.   A good portion of Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf is also being kept under lock-and-key.  According to the American Energy Alliance, expanding drilling in the OCS could create 1.2 million jobs annually across the country and generate $8 trillion in economic output.
• Increase Alaskan Production. Declining production on the Alaskan North Slope threatens the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS), a vital artery of domestic oil.  Several fields with tremendous potential await exploration and production, but the Administration continues to drag its heels on permits and embargo our own oil from ourselves.
• Increase Onshore Production.  Regulations imposed by the Obama Administration have significantly decreased onshore oil and natural gas production. The Western U.S. holds more than half of the world’s oil shale resources, which can be converted to crude oil using new technology.  USGS estimates that the region may hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil – six times Saudi Arabia’s proven resources – and enough to provide the U.S with energy for the next 200 years.
• Stop Blocking Access to North American Resources. Instead of relying on energy sources half a world away, America has opportunities to access energy from an ally and neighbor here in North America.  The Obama Administration is preventing that from happening by stalling approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would create new American jobs while enhancing our energy and national security by bringing 700,000 barrels per day of Canadian oil to U.S. consumers. The Keystone XL pipeline would also allow us to access several hundred thousand barrels per day of oil in the newly-discovered Bakken formation in North Dakota.
• Don’t Increase Taxes on American Energy.   Republicans oppose efforts by the Obama Administration to make energy more expensive and destroy jobs by imposing new taxes.  The President’s FY 2012 budget proposal includes over $60 billion in tax and fee increases on American energy production.  These taxes will hurt our economy and simply be passed on to consumers, resulting in even higher prices at the pump.
It is time for the President listen to Republicans and turn these common sense ideas into policy so we can lower prices at the pump and keep the economy moving forward.

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