Energy and Power Subcommittee Examines How Middle East Events Affect U.S. Energy Supplies and Market Stability

February 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee today held a hearing on "The Effects of Middle East Events on U.S. Energy Markets." The panel, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), focused on steps the U.S. could take to reduce our reliance on energy imported from the Middle East.

"Events in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen show how uncertain and dangerous this world is.  Furthermore, these developments show how the price of oil can bend to the will of protesters thousands of miles away from our shores," said Whitfield.  "How we react and adapt to this inconvenient reality is a test of political leadership that will play a major role in the economic and national security of this nation."

"The current dilemma America faces with regard to rising crude oil prices is self-made, self-perpetrated and has been a sustained constant over decades, not years.  While the U.S. is also the victim of geo-political instability, it further victimizes itself by refusing to produce its own oil," testified John Hofmeister, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy. "The U.S. previously produced more than 11 million barrels per day of its own domestic resources in the early 1970's and produced 10 million barrels per day well into the 1980's.  It currently produces 7 million barrels per day; with the shut-in Gulf of Mexico, I predict it is on its way to 6 million barrels per day of production next year at a time of returning demand and record global consumption, especially driven by Asian growth."

One opportunity to improve America's energy security discussed during the hearing was the use of Canadian oil sands, a resource from a "stable, friendly, nearby country" that has the potential to create significant American jobs and energy stability.

"Oil sands is "˜technology oil' and its development makes extensive use of U.S. products, technologies and expertise, creating a significant number of jobs throughout the U.S.," testified Gary Mar, Minister-Counselor for the province of Alberta, Canada - home to the largest proven oil reserve in the world open to international investment and not controlled by a state-run oil company. "A recent study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) estimated that over the next 15 years, the development of Alberta's oil sands will boost U.S. GDP by an average of $31 billion per year, creating over 624,000 jobs in the U.S., just over half of which will be created in the next four years."

Additional witness testimony from the hearing is available online here.

"One thing is constant: for the last several decades, we have lived, and re-lived this cycle of upheaval or potential upheaval in energy prices, driven by factors beyond our control.  And we have talked about the need for greater energy self-sufficiency.  Yet, today, many of the same old policies which have hindered our ability to become more independent in meeting our energy needs, remain in place," concluded Whitfield. "It will be a test of this Subcommittee, going forward, to identify and change those policies which have placed us in this position.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop solutions to these old problems."

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