Cutting Costs at the Pump
America is a nation that runs on gasoline. Large tractor-trailers are responsible for shipping many of our necessary goods from coast-to-coast. Many Americans commute significant distance to and from work each day. We drive our children to school, to the grocery store and the ballpark. In truth, the majority of Americans are dependent on cars, trucks and motorcycles to take care of the day-to-day business of our lives. Gasoline has always been an expense, but the recent rise in gas prices, exacerbated by the incredible destructive power of Hurricane Katrina, has made it an expense that not all Americans can afford.
As of Friday, September 16, the national average price of gasoline is $2.91 per gallon. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the price is even higher, averaging out at an even $3.00 per gallon. Recently, I have spent time traveling throughout the state and have seen the immense impact that these prices are having on the finances and daily lives of Pennsylvanians. In discussions with my constituents, it becomes immediately apparent that rising gas prices are high on their priority list, and rest assured, it is equally high on mine.
In order to take a closer look at the causes of the recent spike in the cost of gasoline, Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing on September 6. While holding a public hearing is a positive first step towards better understanding the situation, it is important that the hearing consist of a balanced participant list, enabling senators to hear a variety of perspectives on the situation. Unfortunately, this particular hearing failed to include high-level executives of the oil industry. So I have called on Chairman Domenici to convene a panel of oil company executives to testify at any hearing regarding gas prices.
Bringing these executives before the Committee serves two purposes. First, these individuals should be able to provide valuable insight into the cost of gasoline and offer suggestions on how the Senate might aid in lowering prices, both in the short and long-term. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, oil company executives should be held accountable and forced to answer the tough questions that the American people have regarding the burdensome price of gasoline.
Hurricane Katrina has played a role in the most recent increases in our gas prices, but in truth, these prices have been rising steadily for some time and the problem runs much deeper than simply a result of the hurricane. Understanding the importance of reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, Congress recently passed an energy bill that contained several important incentives designed to diversify our energy supply. One particularly positive provision of this bill was the reauthorization of the Clean Coal Power Initiative, which provides $200 million annually to develop new clean coal technologies America has coal reserves that will last over 300 hundred years, and in time, the use of clean coal should enable us to better protect our environment and significantly lower the cost of all energy sources, including gas.
The provisions in the energy bill designed to lower the cost of gasoline will take time to produce any tangible effect, and I understand that the price of gasoline is a real problem for many Americans right now. I recently sent a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett expressing my concern that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, unethical business practices and possible illegal actions might contribute to rising gas prices. As we work to find a solution to this issue, it is critical that gas prices do not rise any higher than necessary and that the people of Pennsylvania are not taken advantage of as they attempt to meet their energy needs.
The burden that this steep increase in gas prices has placed on Americans is very real. As your United States Senator, I am committed to working to solve this problem. For now, I urge all Pennsylvanians to conserve energy whenever possible, as conservation is the surest way to lower the demand, and thus the price, of gasoline. As Americans have become more aware of the significance of this issue and begun to conserve, gas prices have decreased, dropping by a nationwide average of 30 cents per gallon since August 30. Congress should follow the lead of the American people, recognize the scope of this issue, and do everything in our power to better understand and address the cost of gasoline.