GAS PRICE REDUCTION ACT -- (Senate - July 15, 2008)
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, 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. Their proposals have been the legislative equivalent of a fly swatter, 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 have made no secret of the fact that they do not want to consider real legislation until Inauguration Day, when they hope their candidate will take the White House.
We need to realize Americans are more concerned, at the moment, about paying for groceries and filling their tanks with gas than they are about the political calendar. Americans are not thinking about next January, they are thinking about today. They expect their elected representatives in Washington to take serious steps now to lower the price of gas.
The proposal 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 dependance on the Middle East. The Democrats will have to do better than this if Americans want to see their gas prices go down.
Here is 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 for real answers.
Naming 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 the answer to $4-plus-a-gallon gasoline is curbing speculation alone, then they are obviously asking the wrong question.
Second, their plans call on the President to release 10 percent of the oil contained in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is 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 is nibbling around the edges. Again, it is very 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.
Let me say that again. Even if we were to tap 10 percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as is suggested by our friends on the other side of the aisle, that would only allow the release of 70 million barrels, and we use 20 million barrels a day now. In other words, this is a 3-day solution. It should go without saying that a 3-day supply of oil is not a serious proposal for lowering the price of gas.
Next, the Democratic plans for high gas prices call for increasing production on 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.'' Those who do it should be encouraged, not threatened. The fact is, the Secretary of the Interior already has this authority to revoke a lease if it is not being used according to the original terms of that lease.
Democrats do not mention this at their press conferences, nor do they mention that many of these leases are simply unproductive, nor do they mention that the Federal Government has declared 85 percent of offshore land and 62 percent of known offshore 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 the Western States that have oil shale deposits are literally 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 our land. ``Use it or lose it'' is not a serious proposal for lowering the price of gas.
Finally, the Democratic plan says we should stop exporting oil that is produced domestically. Well, that is an interesting idea. Last year, America exported only 10 million barrels of crude oil overseas--that is half of what we use in a day--including sales to Puerto Rico. Today alone, America will use more than 20 million barrels of oil. This is a half-day solution to a yearlong problem. It is, in other words, a joke.
The crisis is real. Americans are suffering from high gas prices. They deserve better from their elected leaders in Washington than half-day or 3-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 is a supply and demand problem. Until more of our friends on the other side acknowledge this, record-high prices will persist.
Now, some of our friends are beginning to acknowledge the undeniable. As of today, ten Democrats have expressed at least some level of willingness to explore offshore. They are acknowledging a groundswell of public opinion, even among self-described liberals, in favor of more domestic supply.
Republicans have a proposal that was designed specifically to attract their support and the support of any other Member of the Senate who actually is interested in achieving a result. It promotes energy-efficient vehicles such as plug-in electric cars and trucks. It addresses supply and demand by lifting the ban on Western oil shale development and opening exploration far from the shore of 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 is not a half-day Band-Aid on a year-round problem. It is a solution. It is what the American people are demanding of us.
High gas prices are a serious problem and demand to be taken seriously. It is 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.