Weekly Columns


Oct 18 2012

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gasoline prices have averaged a national post-Labor Day record of $3.91 for the month of September. Locally, that trend continues as well. A recent survey finds gas prices in Little Rock are 20.1 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago.

We’re all feeling the pain at the pump. Even if you don’t drive a car regularly, higher energy costs raise the price of transit and increase the costs of goods and services. Gas prices truly are a kitchen table metric and a 105 percent rise in the cost of gasoline since the day President Obama was sworn into office is a very troubling figure.

High gas prices have become the new norm.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are steps we can be taking here at home to drive down the price of gasoline and ease our dependence on foreign regimes, many of which pursue policies that are at odds with American values. 

For starters, we can increase oil production from federal 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. Oil production from these areas dropped 14 percent in 2011 and the President’s five-year leasing plan prohibits oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Instead of policies that drive up the cost of oil, President Obama should be aggressively pursuing an agenda that will bring relief to the wallets of Americans. If we were to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline, allow exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and combine that with increased production in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, we could add three million barrels of oil per day to our domestic supply.

While lowering the cost of gasoline, these projects will create high-paying jobs for thousands of out of work Americans. The Keystone pipeline is estimated to create 20,000 jobs alone. It really is a no-brainer. However, the Administration has been playing politics with the Keystone pipeline project, blocking billions of barrels of Canadian oil from reaching American refineries during an election season.

Opponents claim these steps 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 in circulation 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.

There is no doubt that we have to focus on renewable energy as well. That is the future. It is the reason I have long supported legislation that puts a heavy investment into researching wind, solar, hydrogen and other technologies. However, Americans need relief now and we have resources that are easily available to provide that if the Administration would simply stop blocking every effort we have made to proactively tap those resources.