Congressional Opposition to Drilling Blamed for Higher Gas PricesThursday, July 17, 2008By Josiah Ryan, Staff Writer
(CNSNews.com) – Two Republicans told Cybercast News Service that lawmakers who do not support expanded domestic oil drilling are to blame for the high gas prices Americans are facing at the pump.
But Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) told Cybercast News Service that he believes developing countries are to blame at least as much as Congress is.
Calling the current situation a “perfect storm,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said that “in the long term, my colleagues who oppose drilling are responsible for the higher prices.”
But he also blamed congressional inaction: “We have yet to be proactive in developing American sources of energy and so we all share the blame,” said Bishop. “But that means we also have the opportunity to solve the problem together, and we have to do it now.”
But Sen. Nelson disagreed. “I don’t think they [my colleagues] who oppose drilling are responsible are for the high prices,” he told Cybercast News Service on Tuesday. “I put more responsibility on China and India who are using the oil. This is not a situation where the blame game really applies, though there is really enough blame to go around. But Congress is no more to blame than India and China.’
But Rep. David Davis (R-Tenn.) told Cybercast News Service that those who oppose expanded domestic drilling are responsible for the high prices.
“I do [blame my colleagues]. I think it’s about supply and demand, and it comes down to basic 8th grade economics. You learn in 8th grade economics that if a lot of people want something there is only a little of, prices will go up,” Davis said. “That is exactly where we are right now.”
Davis and Bishop were attending a press conference outside the Capitol, where they and other Republicans urged Congress to lift its moratorium on offshore drilling.
On Monday President Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling that was put into place by his father George H.W. Bush in 1990 and sustained by President Bill Clinton.
The gesture was largely symbolic, however, since a Congressional moratorium on offshore oil drilling has not been lifted.
Congress imposed its moratorium on offshore drilling in 1981 and has extended it annually each year for all coastal waters, except for parts of the Gulf of Mexico and some waters off the coast of Alaska.
Major lease sale coming soon
In other developments on the oil supply front, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management announced on Wednesday that it will make land available for oil and gas leasing in the northeast portion of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A), a 23-million acre area on Alaska’s North Slope.
“This action sets the stage for a major lease sale this fall. This is welcome news at a time when Americans are paying record prices at the pump,” said C. Stephen Allred, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals.
According to Institute for Energy Research, the NPR-A was set aside by President Warren Harding in the early 1920s as an emergency oil supply for the U.S. Navy. It is estimated to contain 10.6 billion barrels of oil.
Republicans hailed the news, and blasted Democrats in the process.
“(T)oday’s announcement is good news for the American people — and bad news for Democratic leaders who worked furiously to prevent these lease sales from going forward in their ‘Six for ’06’ energy bill,” said House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (Mo).
It’s a good thing Democrats failed in their earlier attempt to block oil exploration in the National Petroleum Reserve, House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) agreed.
Boehner also said Congress needs to do more: “Now we need to remove other government barriers to environmentally responsible drilling in the desolate Alaskan coastal plain, remote federal lands, deepwater energy zones far off U.S. coasts, and other sources of American made energy, while promoting conservation and accelerating the development of alternative fuels…”
Republicans are promoting what they call an “all of the above” energy strategy, and they’re demanding that Democratic leaders allow a vote on “meaningful” legislation before Congress begins its August recess.
Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing bills that would curb speculation in the oil market and expand public transportation.
House Democratic leaders also want to reward low-mileage drivers with lower insurance premiums; and they want to reduce commuting costs by providing incentives to employers and employees to take mass transit, bicycle, carpool, walk, or telecommute to work.
(CNSNews.com Senior Editor Susan Jones contributed to this report.)
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