Mr. NUNNELEE. Mr. Speaker, frustrations are growing as Americans are feeling real pain at the pumps. The rising gas prices are a serious strain on an economy that is beginning to show small signs of recovery.
Right now, the average gas price in Mississippi is $3.50 a gallon, and I don't think anybody would be surprised if that number continues to rise. Every time gas prices go up by one penny, that costs American consumers $4 million a day.
Families in north Mississippi have been dealing with tight budgets for the last couple of years, and rising gas prices severely impact an already tightened family budget. We all know that ultimately gas prices will be passed on in higher prices to the consumer through higher transportation costs, increased costs of groceries and other commodities. When there is no extra money in the pocketbooks, there is certainly no padding in the family budget to accommodate this increase in the cost of living associated with higher gas prices.
As turmoil in the Middle East continues, coupled with emerging demand for Third World developing countries that places demand on foreign energy demands, that's going to cause gas prices to further increase. This problem is serious, and it needs to be addressed now. It needs to be addressed through exploring more domestic energy production.
However, President Obama has offered a short-term solution, tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is available for national emergencies at a time of crisis. Mississippians can all agree that when President Bush tapped into the strategic reserve during the aftermath of Katrina, it was in response to a serious supply disruption and an unforeseeable disaster.
But if we draw down on these reserves when gas hits $4 a gallon, what will we do if the reserves are depleted and then a real emergency hits? The President's shortsighted answer to our rapidly increasing oil and gas prices does nothing to protect America from future energy prices skyrocketing, nor does it help lead toward American energy independence.
From the beginning, the Obama administration has failed to initiate a serious energy policy. Instead, this administration has actively taken steps to block or delay American energy production, therefore making us more dependent on unstable foreign countries' oil production.
Recently, we remembered the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's inauguration. Following that inauguration, the President stood in this very Chamber and challenged our Nation to make it a national goal to place a man on the Moon and return him safely back to Earth before the decade is out. Today, we should make it a national priority that before the end of this decade, the United States should achieve energy security and energy independence. By actively producing our own energy resources, America will not only be independent from volatile regions of the world, but we will supply our own energy.
Now there is no single ``silver bullet'' and Republicans support an all-of-the-above approach that includes more American oil, more American natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. We need to expand U.S. oil exploration immediately in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The gulf produces nearly one-third of our domestic oil. Offshore natural gas produced in the gulf region accounts for 13 percent of the total U.S. production. However, a de facto moratorium still exists, even though the official moratorium was lifted last May and October.
Not only has the gulf lost 12,000 quality jobs because of the moratorium, but these rigs are actively leaving that region and moving to foreign countries such as Cuba, Brazil and Mexico.
In February, Federal Judge Feldman gave the Department of the Interior 30 days to rule on seven deepwater drilling permits. As of today, only one of those permits has been issued. That is simply inexcusable. This type of deliberate inaction and negligence fails to meet the needs of a struggling U.S. economy. That is why I'm a proud cosponsor of House Resolution 140, which calls for a streamlining of the permit process for shallow and deepwater drilling in the gulf.
In 2008, President Obama put the entire Pacific coast, Atlantic coast and the eastern gulf coast off-limits to future energy production. This includes a large portion of Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf, even though expanding production would ultimately create upwards of 1.2 million jobs and generate $8 trillion in economic output. That's why we must immediately begin a long-term energy policy and begin to drill today to deal with higher gas prices.
I also believe that it is vitally important to invest in the development of clean coal technologies. Coal is our Nation's most abundant and affordable energy resource, and another way to energy independence is through economically and environmentally sound clean coal technology. President Obama has specifically said that he would bankrupt the coal industry through regulations and impossible standards.
Democrats continue to operate an anti-business agenda and restrict the advancement of domestic energy development through regulations, moratoriums and increased taxes on American energy production. The President's 2012 budget includes over $60 billion in tax and fee increases on American energy production. This will only add to the burden of families and businesses.
The current unrest in the Middle East only emphasizes the importance for America to develop more of its own domestic resources. American energy production can lower prices, create good jobs and decrease our reliability on foreign oil. We need to start paying Americans and stop funding our enemies.
Our country has been blessed with clean and efficient energy resources. Let's stop putting unreasonable restrictions on our natural resources and allow America to claim energy independence.