Weekly Columns

Countering the Rising Price of Gas

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of March 21, 2011

Mar 14 2011

Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi is hunkered down, vowing to fight to the death, and unleashing attacks on his own people. He’s clinging to power, and at the same time, clinging to Africa's largest proven oil reserves.

Libya ranks about 17th among world oil producers and the unrest in the country has sparked a major spike in world oil prices. Crude production in Libya has dropped from 1.6 million barrels per day to 600,000 and we are feeling the impact halfway around the globe.

Within one week, prices at the pump in Arkansas shot up twenty cents a gallon, the second highest one week increase since Hurricane Katrina. According to the Automobile Association of America (AAA), prices at the pumps in Arkansas are averaging around 70 cents a gallon more than this time last year. Local pump prices now hover around $3.50 a gallon across most of the state.

With the spotlight shining on the destructive effect our dependency on foreign oil has on our nation’s economy, we have to ask ourselves: When are we going to get serious about a comprehensive national energy policy?

This starts with the acknowledgment that we must increase production of domestic sources of energy. Whether its oil, coal, nuclear, natural gas, wind or solar, if the Lord blessed us with these resources here at home, we need to utilize them.

A comprehensive energy plan must put us on the path for the future by encouraging use of renewable and alternative fuels, but we cannot pretend that our country is anywhere near moving away from fossil fuels.

We also cannot pretend that we have to choose one source over another, as that continues to put us at mercy of despots around the globe. Unfortunately, this is the mentality of the Obama administration.

In response to questions about skyrocketing oil prices, both Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the president’s spokesman Jay Carney alluded to their confidence in the global supply to ensure our needs are met. Neither indicated there was any need to pursue oil exploration at home. In fact, many leading Democrats are advocating for new regulations and taxes on domestic oil production.

As Americans continue to spend more of their hard-earned dollars at the pump, we cannot rely on an “excess of supply in the world” to meet our energy needs, not when the likes of Saudi Arabia, Libya and Venezuela control that supply.

We can make a major dent in the problem simply by opening the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling in an environmentally responsible way. The Outer Continental Shelf alone is estimated to contain enough oil and natural gas to meet America’s energy needs for about 60 years. Energy exploration and production in ANWR would take place on just 2,000 acres of its 1.5 million acre northern coastal plain, yet allow us to safely produce 900,000 barrels of oil per day for the next 30 years.

The fact that gas prices can dramatically jump as a result of turmoil in a country that only produces two percent of the world’s oil should be enough to make us step up production at home. Yet, the administration continues to bury its head in the sand. We must act now, not when the other shoe falls.