Small Businesses Need Expanded Domestic Energy Production

In honor of National Small Business Week, Members of the House Committee on Small Business are hosting small business forums and listening sessions in their districts across America. Yesterday, I held a small business forum in New Iberia, Louisiana – connecting small business owners and developers to enhance economic opportunities in Louisiana’s 3rd District and addressing their concerns with Washington. A consistent message that I heard from the participants of this forum was that high energy costs are hurting their businesses and crippling job creation.

Louisianans know that small businesses are what will lead the Gulf Coast and America back to economic greatness. Most of the new jobs needed to address our unemployment crisis will come from small companies, not large corporations and certainly not from the government.

One of the biggest issues that small businesses are facing is the outrageous cost of gasoline and energy. The average cost of gasoline has broken records this Spring, and the burden of high energy prices have significantly impacted many small businesses who are battling an already difficult economic environment.

The average cost of gas along the Gulf Coast is $3.82; this is a pain that is burdening small businesses all over the region. And unfortunately, high energy cost disproportionately harms small business more than larger firms. The median commercial sector industry has a small entity energy cost per sales ratio that is 2.7 times greater than that of larger industries, hindering their ability to compete during times of elevated energy prices.

For the last several weeks, House Republicans have been addressing this problem by passing legislation that would triple American offshore oil production, generate $840 million in federal revenue, and create 1.2 million jobs.

Because of the leadership Republicans have taken the House, President Obama signaled over the weekend that he is now willing to consider taking tiny baby steps towards expanding energy production from our domestic resources, even as most Congressional Democrats strongly criticized these efforts. I am encouraged that the President is following our leadership on this issue by signaling support of more domestic energy production, but actions speak louder than words. 

Higher domestic energy costs are stifling job growth and competition at a time when we are recovering from an economic downturn; this is unacceptable. Increasing the supply of American energy will help lower prices and create jobs; but this can’t happen without the President’s action. 

In April, I participated in a Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade hearing that focused on the crippling effects of high fuel prices on small business and the vital need for an all-of-the-above energy approach to ease this cost burden on entrepreneurs.

One of the witnesses was Dick Pingel, owner of Finally Trucking, Inc. – a trucking small business in Wisconsin, and he relayed the frustration of so many small business owners when he said, “{we} support efforts to expand energy production here at home, from the Gulf of Mexico to the new oil-shale opportunities in the West and urge Congress and the Administration to take actions to proceed with new developments and to restart exploration and production operations currently under constraint.”

He is exactly right. We need a comprehensive, domestic energy plan for our nation. We need a plan that expedites the permitting process, encourages drilling operations, opens restricted areas, and increases American refining capacity. By allowing more of our natural resources to be used for energy production, we would reduce energy prices and create thousands of high-quality American jobs. The sooner we can begin using more of our natural resources – the sooner the price of gasoline will come down, the sooner we will become energy independent, and the sooner our nation will rebound from our economic downturn.