This summer, many Americans had to choose between putting expensive gas in their cars to go on vacation or putting food on their tables. But consumers aren't the only ones who get hit at the pump.
Across the country, high fuel costs squeeze budgets of police and sheriff departments, forcing some to cut back on patrols and hiring new officers.
In Texas, the budget crunch affects communities large and small. This year, the Houston Police Department's gasoline budget went up $2.6 million. In the small town of Boerne, the police department is turning to more fuel efficient police cruisers to help ease the strain.
Many departments are putting officers on foot, bike, Segway and scooter patrols rather than squad car. And while conservation is important, these steps can adversely impact the ability of officers to protect communities effectively.
Small departments are more likely to feel the pinch. The police department in Smithville, Kansas, puts two officers in each car and has cut back on responses to non-emergency calls. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, switched many of its patrols from vehicle to foot and instructs its officers to reduce mileage by 25 percent.
High gas prices also lead to spikes in crimes such as gas siphoning. In Westchester County, New York, more than 1,000 gallons of gasoline have been stolen from area pumps. In Idaho, thieves even steal license plates to conceal their identities before driving off from gas stations without paying.
The impact of high gas prices on law enforcement and crime illustrates just how pervasive the crisis is. As soon as possible, Congress needs to vote on a common sense energy policy to bring down prices at the pump and break our dependence on foreign oil.
To increase the supply of American-made energy in environmentally sound ways, we should:
Open America's energy-rich deep ocean resources, the Arctic coastal plain, and Inter-Mountain West oil shale resources for environmentally-safe oil and gas exploration. And we should cut bureaucratic red tape that hinders the construction of new refineries.
To promote American alternative and renewable energy technologies, we should:
Establish a renewable energy trust fund using revenues generated by exploration in the deep ocean and on the Arctic coastal plain.
Eliminate barriers to the expansion of emission-free nuclear power production.
Permanently extend tax credits for alternative energy production, including wind, solar and hydrogen.
Repeal the prohibition on government purchasing of alternative energy.
Promote coal-to-liquids technology.
Recently, we've seen a slight drop in oil prices, which began when President Bush removed the executive ban on offshore drilling. Following the announcement, crude-oil prices dropped almost $11 in two days. This is not a coincidence.
The Democratic Leadership in Congress says that it will take years to produce oil from offshore drilling and that it won't affect energy prices. They are wrong. Future supply affects current prices.
If Congress lifts the ban on offshore drilling and passes an "all of the above" energy policy, we will continue to see oil prices fall. Energy traders take government policies into account. The decision to develop American energy resources can immediately lower the cost per barrel of oil and provide relief at the pump. Polls show that more than 75% of Americans favor development of American energy.
I am an original cosponsor of the American Energy Act, which is a comprehensive "all of the above" energy policy to increase the supply of American-made energy, improve conservation and efficiency, and promote renewable and alternative energy.
Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi is blocking a vote on this legislation. However, in the face of such overwhelming support from the American people, it's become difficult for the Speaker to continue to deny a vote.
During the August recess, I returned to Washington to join my fellow Republicans in a House floor protest to push for Congress to be called back into session immediately for a vote on the American Energy Act. This September, as Congress reconvenes, I will continue to fight for a vote. For more information on this comprehensive energy plan, I encourage you to go to http://www.gop.gov/energy/.