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Surreal gas prices need real solution


June 16, 2008
www.northfulton.com

These days there is a pretty good way to gauge how someone's day is going. Ask if they've filled up their gas tank recently. If so, they're likely to be in a foul mood. And rightly so.

In recent months, we have experienced almost surreal increases in prices at the pump. Day after day, new records are set. In fact, since January of 2007, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Georgia has shot up $1.77. Every day, we find ourselves asking: "Will this ever end?"

The answer is yes, when the politics stops and we start doing something about it.

As much as House Democrat leadership may wish it to be, exasperation is not an energy policy. Regrettably for American consumers, their energy plan has been focused on what we will not do. No exploration of American energy; no increase in refineries; no incentives to create new sources of fuel. It seems all this majority is willing to do is hike up taxes on American oil producers – not an economically defensible way of lowering prices at the pump.

While it may be politically expedient to lay the blame for rising gas prices on oil companies, we owe it to American consumers to be honest about how we got here. Some of the increase in price can be attributed to the weakening dollar. Speculation may play a hand, and we lack adequate refining capacity. But these record prices are principally the result of supply and demand, and we must treat it as such.

While global supply of oil has remained relatively stagnant, growth in the demand of energy from emerging nations like China and India has been extraordinary. With these countries showing no sign of slowing down, we must get to work to increase the American supply of energy to meet our needs.

This past week, I joined with a number of my colleagues to introduce a new energy action plan. Rather than accepting the status quo, this is a real executable plan to give meaningful relief to American families.

First, we must increase production and open up access to explore for American-made energy. For too long our own precious resources have been off limits, and competing nations are gaining from our neglect.

Right now, China is preparing to extract oil as close as 50 miles off the coast of Florida! Yet American companies are not able to do the same to provide for American consumers. This is outrageous. How can we honestly demand OPEC nations pump more oil when we will not even utilize our own resources?

And we have bountiful resources right here at home. The Bureau of Land Management recently released data showing the vastness of our untapped oil and natural gas resources. The Bureau estimates there are currently 117 billion barrels of oil placed off limits by Congress. The 86 billion barrels off our coast alone could provide enough fuel to replace OPEC imports for over 50 years.

A central impediment to getting more affordable energy to American consumers is the lack of refining capacity. A new oil refinery has not been constructed in this country in over thirty years. Washington red tape has discouraged this investment. It is time to release American business from these regulatory shackles.

In addition to increasing known sources, we must promote new, clean, and reliable sources of energy. Our action plan provides investment tax credits for innovation and engineering of new technologies. We should give incentives to find new sources of energy, rather than picking winners and losers. The ingenuity of American enterprise will provide clean energy solutions.

Finally, while we must do all we can to grow our supply, encouraging conservation is imperative. Four dollar gasoline is certainly enough to slow some consumption, but more can be done - without the pain. By providing incentives for conservation we can ease the demand for gasoline, while also becoming a more efficient and clean economy.

People are sick and tired of politics trumping positive solutions. Congress has an obligation and duty to provide responsible answers to American families feeling the strain of runaway gas prices. By putting principled leadership before partisanship, we can solve this crisis and put smiles back on the faces of American motorists.

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