Time for a Serious, Balanced Approach to the Price of Gas

"Their proposals have been the legislative equivalent of a flyswatter when the American people are clamoring for the heavy artillery."

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the need for a serious and balanced approach to lowering the price at the pump:

“As we stand here, Americans are suffering from the most dramatic oil shock in memory.  A single barrel of crude oil costs almost three times today what it did a year and a half ago. This is a crisis that demands our full attention.

“Yet, until now, Democrats on Capitol Hill have responded as if high gas prices were a mere distraction.  And their proposals have been the legislative equivalent of a flyswatter when the American people are clamoring for the heavy artillery.

“Part of the reason for this timid approach by our friends on the other side, as anyone can see, is the upcoming election.  They’ve made no secret of the fact that they don’t want to consider real legislation until Inauguration Day, when they hope their candidate will take the White House.

“We need to realize that Americans are more concerned at the moment about paying for groceries and filling up their tanks with gas than they are about the political calendar.  Americans aren’t thinking about next January.  They’re thinking about today.  And they expect their elected representatives in Washington to take serious steps now to lower the price of gas.

“The proposal that the Democratic Leader outlined on gas prices last week falls laughably short.  It has all the marks of a political exercise nervously cobbled together in the face of constituent pressure and none of the elements of a serious plan that would actually lower the price of gas or reduce our dependence on the Middle East.  The Democrats will have to do better than this if Americans want to see their gas prices go down.

“Here’s their plan.

“First, they propose curbing speculation.

“Democrats want us to forget that no reputable economist thinks speculators alone are the reason for the spike in gas prices.  Or that a recent report by the 27-nation International Energy Agency chided politicians who blame speculators alone as searching for a scapegoat instead of looking real answers.

“Blaming speculators alone is not a serious proposal for lowering the price of gas.  We do need more cops on the beat at the CFTC.  But if Democrats think that the answer to $4-plus a gallon gasoline is curbing speculation alone, then they’re obviously asking the wrong question.

“Second, their plan calls on the President to release 10 percent of the oil contained in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  It’s encouraging to see our friends on the other side acknowledging that increasing supply has an effect on price.  But, at best, this is a polite nod in the direction of supply.  It’s nibbling around the edges.  Again, it’s timid.

“Even if we were to tap 10 percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as they suggest, that would only allow for the release of 70 million barrels at a time when Americans are using more than 20 million barrels of oil a day.  In other words, this is a three-day solution.  And it should go without saying that a three-day supply of oil is not a serious proposal for lowering the price of gas.

“Next, the Democrat plan for high gas prices calls for increasing production on the 68 million acres already leased to oil companies.  This is the so-called ‘Use it or lose it’ provision that says scolding energy companies for not producing fast enough will magically cause gas prices to go down.  Let me remind my friends that this is why we call it exploration.  And those who do it should be encouraged, not threatened.

“The fact is, the Secretary of the Interior already has the authority to revoke a lease if it’s not being used according to the original terms of the lease. Democrats don’t mention this at their press conferences.  Nor do they mention that many of these leases are unproductive.  Nor do they mention that the federal government has declared 85 percent of offshore land and 62 percent of known onshore oil reserves completely off-limits to new exploration.

“Nor do the Democrats mention that — because of them –100 percent of Western oil shale is off limits, despite the fact that experts estimate that the western states that have oil shale deposits are floating on a sea of oil roughly three times the size of Saudi Arabian oil reserves.  In other words, ‘Use it or lose it’ is already the law of the land.  And ‘Use it or lose it’ is not a serious proposal for lowering the price of gas.

“Finally, the Democrat plan says we should stop exporting oil that’s produced domestically.

“Well that’s an interesting idea. Last year, America exported only 10 million barrels of crude oil overseas — including sales to Puerto Rico.  Today alone, Americans will use more than 20 million barrels of oil.  This is a half-day solution to a year-long problem.  It is, in other words, a joke.

“This crisis is real. Americans are really suffering from high gas prices.  And they deserve better from their elected leaders in Washington than half-day or three-day solutions and bad jokes.  They deserve a year-round solution.

“Americans deserve a solution that says if prices are going to go down, supply needs to go up.  They deserve a plan that lifts the ban on offshore exploration and oil shale development, even as we continue to promote conservation.

“Americans know this crisis is not only a demand problem.  It’s a supply and demand problem.  And until more of our friends on the other side acknowledge this, record high prices will persist.

“Some of our friends are beginning to acknowledge the undeniable.  As of today, 10 Democrats have expressed some level of willingness to explore offshore.  They’re acknowledging a groundswell of public opinion — even among self-described liberals — in favor of more domestic supply.  And Republicans have a proposal that was designed specifically to attract their support and the support of any other member of the Senate who actually wants to achieve a result here.

“It promotes energy efficient vehicles like plug-in electric cars and trucks. And it addresses supply and demand by lifting the ban on Western oil shale development and opening up exploration far from the shores of the states that want it.

“Ours is a serious proposal that directly addresses the price of gas at the pump. It is not a gimmick.  It’s not a half-day band aid on a year-round problem.  It is a solution.  And it’s what the American people demand.

“High gas prices are a serious problem that demands to be taken seriously.

“It’s time our friends on the other side put partisan differences — and timid, peripheral half-measures — aside and get serious about this urgent situation.  The American people expect and deserve it.”