The dramatic increase in gas prices this year has hit all Hoosiers very hard. It is clearer than ever before that our country needs a comprehensive energy policy that aims to lower gas prices at the pump right now. We also must increase energy supplies and conserve more in order to achieve energy independence from the Middle East.
While all Americans agree about the need for our country to end its dependence on foreign sources of energy, there are many opinions on the best way to achieve this goal. Some argue we can drill our way to energy security; others argue that conservation is the best strategy for realizing long-term energy independence. I think the best approach is to incorporate solutions from all sides of this important debate.
To give Hoosiers relief at the pump now, I supported temporarily suspending shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR was established in the aftermath of the 1970s oil shortages to be our nation's back-up supply in future energy crises. Suspending shipments to the SPR, which currently stores more than 700 million barrels of oil, would put more supply on the market, thereby possibly reducing the price of a gallon of gas. As a result of legislation I helped pass through Congress, oil will not be shipped to the SPR for a six-month period beginning July 1st.
Achieving energy independence in the future requires action in the present. It also will require a willingness to seriously examine all possible sources of energy. Therefore, I support investing in renewable sources of energy such as the biofuels made right here in Indiana; advancing wind, solar, and hydroelectric alternative energy sources; encouraging greater use of safe nuclear power; and taking advantage of Indiana's most plentiful source of energy, coal, and clean coal technologies.
I also support expanding our domestic production and exploration of oil and gas as a way to achieve energy independence. It has been a long-standing policy of the federal government not to allow exploration for oil and gas off America's coasts in the outer continental shelf (OCS). Since 1982, a moratorium on new drilling in certain areas of the OCS has been maintained through Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses. In fact, in 1990, the moratorium was greatly expanded by President George H.W. Bush.
Last year, I voted with a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives against an amendment that would have lifted the moratorium for one year. In light of the recent drastic increases in oil prices, however, I believe now is an appropriate time to allow focused and responsible new oil and gas exploration in the OCS. Further, I have voted to increase oil production from shale on federal lands and I would support responsible exploration of oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, increased domestic production is only one part of a successful comprehensive energy strategy and it will take many years before new exploration delivers significant amounts of oil to the market. That is why it is so important to also take steps now that are aimed at lowering gas prices in the near term.
There are no easy answers, especially as global demand from countries like India and China consumes more of the world's supply. However, I will continue to work hard to establish a strong and responsible energy policy that is environmentally sound and brings much-needed price relief to hard-working Hoosiers, while also reducing our reliance on foreign sources of oil.