Weekly Columns

There is no denying that rising fuel prices are hurting Arkansans and further complicating our efforts to revitalize the economy. There is also no denying that we are not moving fast enough to address these concerns. Americans want to know why, while their gas bills increase, Washington still does not have an energy policy.

The Senate missed a golden opportunity to move us toward energy independence during the debate over the reauthorization of the Highway Bill. My colleagues offered two amendments to the bill that would increase domestic oil production and drive down the cost of gas by increasing our supply of oil. One measure would have begun construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the other authorized drilling throughout the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Both amendments would have helped ease our energy crisis by allowing us to tap into the resources we have been blessed with. Unfortunately, the Senate Majority blocked both these efforts from moving forward.

The reason they offer for blocking these amendments is based on faulty logic. The idea that increased domestic oil production is unnecessary because it is at the highest it has been in eight years does not show the full picture. You only get those numbers by relying heavily on production on private lands in North Dakota, Texas and Alaska. We simply are not utilizing the resources we have been blessed with on public lands.

We have the largest recoverable resources of oil, gas and coal of any nation on the planet. America sits on a supply of energy that is larger than the combined supply of Saudi Arabia, China and Canada. Much of that is on public lands and the lack of will in Washington is preventing us from accessing that supply.

The Keystone XL pipeline, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico alone would produce three million barrels of oil per day. Opponents claim this will do little to relieve the skyrocketing prices we face now. That was the argument when I visited ANWR ten years ago. Think of the supply of American oil we could have ready for us to use today if we had taken the appropriate steps a decade ago. Keeping this oil off-limits prevents our economy from revitalizing, increases the costs Americans pay for fuel, and it creates an enormous liability for our national and economic security.

I have long supported legislation that puts a heavy investment into researching wind, solar, hydrogen and other technologies. These will ultimately ease our dependence on foreign oil and gas. But we need relief now and American oil is necessary and available.

By stalling domestic production, we create an unnecessary burden on an already weak economy and are hurting our efforts to meet our energy needs. That is why I supported these commonsense measures to lift the moratorium on offshore oil development and to move the Keystone pipeline forward instead of further postponing the decision.

The people of Arkansas are demanding action from Washington. They are frustrated by the higher totals that appear on the receipts every time they go to fill up their car. They are tired of seeing more and more of their disposable income being eaten up at the pump. Let’s start providing them relief by increasing production here at home.