Rep. Fred Upton in Politico: Previewing the President's Energy Speech

March 30, 2011

People are already angry about high gas prices. But they really get steamed when they learn how much their own government is contributing to the problem. It's time for Congress to impose a cease-fire in the Obama administration's war on lower gasoline prices.

A host of factors affect the price of gas. Some, like the upheaval in Libya, are outside our control. But federal laws and regulations that increase energy costs are another matter. They were made in Washington -- and can be repealed by Washington.

As chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, I have made it my top priority to do just that. Halting these harmful government policies is a key pillar of the new approach we're calling the American Energy Initiative.
Amazingly, Obama's regulators are still rolling out costly energy dictates. Even as prices approach $4 per gallon.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's global-warming regulations include a new proposal that could make it more expensive to refine oil into gasoline. Steve Cousins, vice president of the refiner Lion Oil Co., recently testified in favor of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, our bill to rein in the EPA.

Cousins said it's bad enough that this rule, which applies only to U.S. facilities, could chase refining jobs overseas. But he also worries about the effect on pump prices. He said our legislation is "necessary to protect consumers, farmers and truckers from higher gasoline and diesel fuel prices."

After we stop these pending regulations, we need to revisit existing ones. Heading the list are roadblocks to domestic oil production.

While some anti-drilling policies predate President Barack Obama, he's kicked them into high gear in his first two years. Even before Deepwater Horizon, the administration was closing the door on new onshore and offshore energy leases. And not just new production -- companies with existing leases are being hit by unprecedented permitting delays and other regulatory roadblocks.

Given the Middle East turmoil, it is obvious that using U.S. oil is the sensible thing to do. That doing so could create thousands of high-paying energy industry jobs is just icing on the cake.

The administration recently denied the go-ahead permitting that would help produce billions of barrels of oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in Alaska. Some estimate that these fields alone could add a million barrels per day to our domestic supply, helping to lower gasoline prices and create new jobs.

Most major developed countries are looking for more oil, along with outside investments that could create jobs in pursuit of those resources. Brazil, for example, has a $174 billion energy development plan to be spent primarily on oil resources. It's worth noting that in 2009, the Obama administration approved a $2 billion loan to Brazil's national oil company -- for that development.

Alarmingly, and closer to home, China is pursuing opportunities to potentially develop resources in Cuba's waters -- next to U.S. boundaries.

The irony is that North America sits on huge oil supplies. Yet Washington prefers to push investment to any shores but our own. This imperils our national security and transfers wealth to the rest of the world, while driving up costs for Americans.

Increasing domestic drilling is a no-brainer. So is a proposed pipeline to bring in more than a million barrels of oil per day from our close ally, Canada. Once complete, the Keystone XL pipeline system could transport this oil to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. The pipeline, according to a recent Energy Department study, has "the potential to very substantially reduce U.S. dependency on non-Canadian foreign oil, including from the Middle East." The project would create an estimated 15,000 U.S. construction jobs.

It sounds almost too good to be true. But the Obama administration is busy delaying it with environmental red tape. We are working on legislation to break that logjam.

These two initiatives alone could boost U.S. energy supplies by approximately 2 million barrels of oil per day, which would go a long way toward relieving pain at the pump.

We are also developing new proposals to help the U.S., Canada and Mexico work together to boost North American energy resources. Our three countries have billions of barrels of oil and potentially hundreds of years' worth of natural gas reserves. We should be breaking down barriers against using these non-OPEC resources -- not keeping them off limits because of an ideological crusade.

Obama spoke at length in his State of the Union address about his favorite new clean energy sources and alternative cars. But he bashed oil companies as purveyors of "yesterday's energy." He repeatedly extolled "clean" energy -- but didn't once mention "affordable" energy.

Wishful thinking, however, is not an energy source. Many of Obama's favorite alternatives now cost far more than $4 gasoline. That is likely to change in time -- as we pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy, in which the government does not pick winners and losers.

But, for now, we need oil. And we should be taking sensible steps to ensure it is as affordable and reliable as possible.

The president recently insisted he wants to fight for affordable gasoline. But the gulf between Obama's words and deeds is wide.

Consumers need someone in Washington to fight against bureaucratic red tape and for increasing supplies from safe North American sources.

We intend to do just that.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Read the story online HERE.
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