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Hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs - Rising Oil Prices, Declining National Security?

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Location: Washington, DC

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REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for this very timely hearing and an energetic and interesting panel. I'm grateful for all of these good citizens' time.

You know, I've supported alternative fuels. I'm -- a lot of what our witnesses have, for the majority, make reference to resonate with me -- alternative technologies, wind, solar. But we got a pretty serious problem in Columbus, Indiana.

We're ($)3.99 a gallon right now. And Memorial Day weekend is usually when people hitch up the boats and head to the lake. And I know we are going to blow past $4 a gallon. And I think the shockwave that's going to resonate across America is going to break glass when that happens.

So I'm going to continue to support legislative efforts to come up with alternative sources of energy. But I do want to explore what is beyond the jurisdiction of this committee. I want to concede that to the --

REP. BERMAN: (Why should he ?) be any different?

REP. PENCE: (Laughs.) It's this oil business. And -- but Mr. Chairman, with respect, one of our witnesses repeatedly said that the United States of America is 3 percent of the oil reserves --

MS. KORIN: Conventional.

REP. PENCE: Okay, I'll use your term -- 3 percent of the conventional oil reserves. Well, oil reserves are estimated quantities of crude oil that are claimed to be recoverable under existing operating conditions and economic conditions. Okay?

Now, maybe at $65 a barrel, this -- the fact that we have a 110- year supply of oil in oil shale in this country is not economically feasible. But I think at last Friday, at $133 a barrel, isn't it arguable that -- you said it's a difficult technology, it's expensive. Right. But by recent estimates, which are not particularly disputed, the Bureau of Land Management says we have 2,500 giga barrels of potential recoverable oil in the United States of America, that U.S. demand for oil at current rates would be met for 110 years.

I mean, and the other thing, too, is remember -- I say with respect to our witness, particularly the extremely energetic and persuasive witness in the center of the table -- let me say that aren't oil reserves proved and unproved? And on what basis do we assert that the United States categorically only has 3 percent of the oil reserves in the world? I mean, I don't know what's under ANWR. I don't know what's offshore. I, with respect, don't think this panel does either.

And the truth is that I really do believe we have got to as a nation have an honest conversation about this.

I'm also quite struck, number one, the witnesses' understanding what the unproved oil reserves are in the United States really is striking to me. And the other thing is, to understand how OPEC would respond if we announced we were going to begin to drill in environmentally responsible ways in ANWR or offshore or if American companies decided it was economically feasible to move into the oil shale market -- and Mr. Sandalow, you just made the comment that it would not affect world price at all. I respect your opinion. I don't know how you'd know.

Ms. Korin, you said we're going to drill more, they're going to drill less. That's an interesting hypothesis. Maybe that's true. I'm sure we don't know.

But it strikes me that the American people, particularly people in Columbus, Indiana who are waking up this morning at ($)3.99 on the signs, would like the American people to have more access to American oil.

So it -- I'd yield the balance of my time to either one of our witnesses. I mean no disrespect, but I want to understand these broad conclusions about how our competitors would respond on the global stage and understand on what basis do we categorically dismiss 110 years of oil shale reserves and unproven reserves in America?

REP. BERMAN: Because I'm so interested in the answer, I will ask unanimous consent to give the panel an additional minute to answer this.

REP. PENCE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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