Filling up the mini-van for last week's drive to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving might have cost consumers more this year than any time in history, thanks to the rising price of gasoline.
With oil approaching $100 a barrel and the price of gas north of $3 a gallon, consumers are feeling the pinch of not only filling up their fuel tanks but the cost to heat their homes.
Rising energy costs are tugging at the economy as energy prices are tacked on to the cost of consumer goods and services. If energy prices continue to climb, it could be one factor that creates inflation and the potential for recession.
But none of this would be a factor if the Democratic Congress let America become more energy independent. For example, if we could drill for more oil and natural gas off the coast of the United States or in the Rockies or Alaska, it could add to our ability to be less reliant on foreign energy, including that from the Middle East.
Yet time and again, Congress refuses to consider legislation to permit American companies to drill for energy even in the deep waters off Florida, for example, when nations such as China are poised to start drilling right off our own shores.
The Democrats' energy policy is one that is bent on hurting our nation's economy and each of our wallets.
We might all think gasoline is like water - there appeared to be an endless supply. But with developing nations such as India and China consuming more oil, America needs domestic energy production now more than ever. Consider this:
- In 2008, our nation will consume 21 billion gallons a day of gasoline, a 1 percent increase over this year - despite the influx of hybrid cars and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Our domestic production will be up 1.2 percent next year, but we will only produce 5.2 billion gallons a day - less than 25 percent of what we consume. More than 75 percent of our oil will continue to be imported.
Unfortunately, our nation has continued to tie its own hands, denying itself the very energy that keeps its economy going. And this Democratic Congress seems content to let those policies stand.
For example, in 1980, President Carter imposed a windfall profits tax on American oil companies, making it more expensive to produce oil in our own country, giving foreign producers a competitive edge.
The Democratic Congress imposed a ban on drilling off the Outer Continental Shelf in the early 1970s. Recent attempts to repeal it have been rejected. And President Clinton vetoed legislation to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, with an estimated 1.5 million barrels a day of oil below the surface. Congress also has repeatedly rejected legislation to open up that area for drilling.
Just two years ago, hurricanes Rita and Katrina packed powerful punches on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico yet there were no serious oil spills. That's because American technology has improved so dramatically that obtaining energy can be done in an environmentally-sound manner. In Alaska, that state's citizens want companies to drill in ANWR because they know about improved technology which brings enormous economic benefit.
Our nation would see the same benefit. For every barrel of oil we could produce domestically, that's one less barrel we have to buy from a part of the world ripe in geopolitical turmoil such as Venezuela, Russia or the Middle East. And it would help drive down the price of a gallon of gasoline or natural gas to heat our homes.
That's the kind of energy policy this nation needs - one that makes us stronger and less reliant on countries hostile to freedom. But that would take a Democratic Congress willing to stop playing politics with the environmental lobby and instead recognize the implications these energy policies have on our economy. Republicans such as me support policies to make America more energy independent.
Our nation has been blessed with abundant natural resources. We shouldn't be hesitant to tap into them, especially if energy costs are so high. A trip to Grandma's house for the holidays will always take a tank of gas. But it shouldn't cost more to get there than it does to make a turkey dinner.
Republican Paul Broun represents Georgia's 10th Congressional District.
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