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Weekly Column: Rising Gas Prices aren't Necessary

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A gallon of gas at Kones Korner near my home in Castlewood currently costs more than $3.60. The Energy Information Agency shows the U.S. weekly average price of gas per gallon is up 55 cents from a year ago. The rising price of gasoline affects everyone, particularly those of us in rural states like South Dakota. Paying close to four dollars for a gallon of gasoline hurts families and small businesses who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Instability in North Africa and Middle East has made markets nervous and helped drive up the price of oil beyond $100 per barrel. Unfortunately, little can directly be done by the United States to achieve immediate stability in the Middle East and the result is pain at the pump.

Our nation needs a plan for energy independence that simultaneously boosts our economy and creates jobs. The steps we need to take are plain enough; we just need leadership in Washington to follow through on it.

The first step is "do no harm.' That is why I cosponsored a bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing harmful cap-and-tax regulations that would result in higher costs for oil and gasoline.

This bill, H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, is working its way through committee and I hope the full House considers it very soon. EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions would increase the cost of energy across the board. In fact, these job-killing regulations are estimated to increase the price of a gallon of gas by 19 cents in just four years and 95 cents in 2050.

Limiting the role of the EPA is just the first step towards a sensible energy plan that puts us on the path to energy independence. We must also focus on encouraging conservation, responsibly using our existing domestic natural resources, and incentivizing future innovation.

Safe and secure drilling in both the deep waters off our nation's coasts and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will create much-needed jobs for Americans, stimulate the economy, and give the United States more power over our domestic energy policies. By tapping these domestic energy supplies, it is estimated that 160,000 new jobs would be created by 2030, resulting in $70 billion in additional wages, according to reports by ICF International, a non-partisan group.

We also need to continue growing our own fuel here at home in the form of ethanol and other biofuels. As an experienced farmer who has invested in ethanol and grown the crops used to produce it, I know firsthand the benefits this fuel can provide both in terms of energy independence and job creation.

South Dakotans should not have to worry if they will be able to afford their next fill up for the drive to work or family road trip. I am committed to doing what is best for South Dakota's families, farms and businesses. This includes doing everything I can to implement an energy plan that frees us from Mideast petroleum politics and creates jobs here at home.


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