While traveling across Kansas for 13 more town hall meetings during the past three weeks, I heard a myriad of concerns and ideas from constituents. One issue that arose in places like Sharon Springs, Colby and elsewhere was the concern about rising gas prices.
The high cost of gasoline hits Kansans who just need to get from point A to point B, to take their kids to school, or to operate their farm or other business. The high costs are also placing a tremendous burden on entrepreneurs who have to charge consumers more. But Kansans aren't looking for another 1970s approach demanding we consume less energy by doing fewer things -- they are looking for answers that do not disrupt their ways of life. What some environmentalist elite just don't get is that in Kansas there is no alternative to driving. There is no other way to get from point A to point B but with a car. There is no way to transport Western Kansas products to market but by truck or train. Therefore, the solution is more energy, not less.
Increasing production not only lowers prices, but also creates jobs, helps families trying to make ends meet, and enhances national security by reducing our dependence on foreign sources. High gas prices are a matter of supply and demand. When Washington chokes the supply, costs go up. When Washington empowers drillers to add to the supply, costs go down.
This week, I joined some of my colleagues in the Republican Study Committee in cosponsoring the Consumer Relief for Pain at the Pump Act. This bill adds to production by offering short-term solutions for dealing with high prices of gasoline now and long-term solutions for improving the energy marketplace in the years to come.
First, it repeals the President's "permatorium" on drilling on the outer continental shelf, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. Though the President has officially lifted the ban on drilling imposed after the Deepwater Horizon explosion last spring, the administration has effectively maintained that ban by delaying the permitting process for new leases. If the President truly cares about reducing unemployment, then stalling drilling permits -- and effectively killing tens of thousands of jobs -- is not the answer.
Second, this bill repeals the "Wild Lands Policy" that permits the Department of the Interior to stop energy development in America. Not only does it lift this authority from the Department, but it also streamlines the bureaucratic process and establishes a judicial review process for permitting procedures. Trial lawyers and special interests are allowed to exploit the current system, harming consumers.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, this bill releases the regulatory grip of the EPA on America's energy production. Through this legislation, the EPA would be barred from imposing regulations in the name of global warming -- and without Congressional consent. Unelected bureaucrats have been handed too much power over our energy policy; decisions over energy policy should rest with those who can be held accountable by the voters.
This bill is a step toward reducing gas prices. Even more importantly, it is a part of a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy strategy that is about meeting our needs and preparing for the future. It also recognizes that we are not going to transform the way we consume energy any time soon. Instead, with less regulation and more production, we have a real solution to high energy prices.