With gas prices slowly creeping upwards toward $4 a gallon, one would think the President of the United States and Congressional Democrats would finally get serious about working across the aisle on solutions to ease the pain at the pump. At the very least they could put forward a few ideas that would provide consumers already hard hit by a weak economy some relief in their weekly gas bill. However, this week we saw instead an incredible demonstration of the blame game by the Administration. The key message of the President was not about working together to find an answer, but a clear statement of “it’s not my fault.”
The blame was extended to anyone but the Administration – rising gas prices are caused by increased demand from China. Or maybe it’s the recent tensions with Iran. Or it could be decreased foreign supply. Or the Administration’s consistent election-year boogeyman: the Wall Street speculators. Better yet, gas prices are higher because of oil companies. Of course, these things are outside of the control of the U.S. government, so the Administration can’t do anything about it.
President Obama offered little in the way of solutions, instead telling the American people that he wouldn’t make “phony election-year promises about lower gas prices.” The American people don’t want phony promises, but they also don’t want inaction while gas prices go up. I am astonished that in a speech about lowering gas prices, the President also called for higher taxes on the oil industry and more money for unproven clean energy. Let me clear, clean energy technologies will play a role in a long-term solution, but will do nothing to solve the problem this year.
When the rhetoric over gas prices heats up, it is helpful to take a look at some of the facts about gas prices and American energy production. The Administration claims it is opening up more than 75 percent of our offshore oil and gas resources. Yet, that is just the status quo and includes only the areas we have already explored. Eighty-five percent of all American offshore areas remain off-limits. This Administration also placed a moratorium on new drilling and has barely begun to approve any new leases. One example of backwards policymaking is in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska. The energy industry has spent $2.6 billion to obtain close to 500 leases; yet, to date the Administration has not allowed a single well to be drilled on any of these leases. Rhetoric does not drill wells and does not create jobs. Action does. There is no doubt that in light of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill almost two years ago, new safety and inspection measures must be put in place; but, new energy exploration cannot and should not be halted altogether.
The Executive Branch is also quick to blame “tax breaks” for energy companies, specifically oil and natural gas companies. The fact is, however, the oil and gas industry does not receive a single targeted tax credit from the IRS. It takes deductions on the cost of doing business, just like other companies. The Administration’s call for an $85 billion tax hike on a particular sector of our economy is not going to lower gas prices. It will make them higher. Giving millions in loan guarantees to companies like Solyndra while increasing taxes on proven energy resources is not going to solve the energy crisis. To call out the oil and gas industry over others is yet another illustration of the government picking winners and losers in the marketplace, something it does not need to be in the business of doing. In fact, the government should not be “in business” at all.
I agree with the President on one thing he said this week, namely that “[t]here is no silver bullet, there never has been.” Nonetheless, I completely disagree with his assertion that there is little we can do about it. The President and Senate should join us in putting forward a viable “All of the Above” energy strategy that will expand domestic sources of production, invest in clean energy technologies, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help keep gas prices low for Americans. The United States can be a leader in innovation and clean energy without limiting our current sources of energy. I hope my colleagues will join in pushing for solutions to increasing gas prices that could have a debilitating effect on our fragile economy.