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The Hill - Time to Start Jobs, Not Spend Reserves

Op-Ed

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In February, I wrote a column encouraging President Obama to end his moratorium on gulf drilling and restore the thousands of jobs that have been lost as a result. In May, I wrote another column pointing out that the president talks about a strong domestic energy policy, while his actions send the opposite message. The president has advocated energy policies that stifle our oil and gas production and that kill American jobs. Since he took office, gas prices have doubled. And, he hired an energy secretary who admits to wanting to "boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."

Now, we see his energy policies take a turn for the worse. I was shocked to read that the president ordered the release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The amount he called for was the largest in history: 30 million barrels in 30 days. The Reserve is intended to be used for a supply emergency. The White House is claiming that the disruption of Libya's supply constitutes an emergency.

Unfortunately, the source of our high gas prices is much closer to home. After two years of careless energy policy, we're seeing the consequences. It is unacceptable that we do not capitalize on the thousands of potential jobs and millions of barrels of oil in our own backyard -- in North Dakota's Bakken formation, in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, in the Gulf of Mexico--but but these remain off-limits.

In short, the president would rather pawn our emergency oil supply than put Americans back to work. We're spending our "savings account" of oil while cutting off production of new supply--this simply does not make sense. The opportunities for domestic energy production are countless. The economy in the gulf would see growth tomorrow if the moratorium were lifted. In New Mexico, leasing requests have already been turned down, and uncertainty looms, because Administration officials "don't have to consider the jobs" when they decide whether to implement massive regulations to protect a lizard. Across the country, the story is the same: the Administration is waging a war on the very jobs that could lower our gas prices and restore our economy.

The thinking behind this policy is the same that compelled the White House to ask Congress for a debt limit increase without any proposal for how to fix the debt. Americans are desperate for real cures, while the White House tries to distract us by addressing only the symptoms. Rather than actually facing our massive debt problem, the White House wants to just hand it off to our children and grandchildren. Rather than developing a real energy policy for America that will create jobs and spur growth, the president would prefer an artificial and very temporary approach with real and very long-term consequences.

The release of oil from the strategic reserve does not help the joblessness caused by reckless energy policies. It does not reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And the effects at the pump will be measured in pennies, and will be short-lived. The Washington Post recently wrote that the only emergency here is a political one: the president knows that his reelection will be threatened if prices stay high, so he's desperate to lower them any way he can. Any way, that is, except putting Americans back to work.

What happens next? When we've used up all of our reserves and are still relying on other countries for our oil, where will we turn? When we've killed businesses--and jobs with them--that can't afford Mr. Chu's European-level gas prices, where will we find work? When we face the real emergency for which the Reserve was created, what will we do?

We need jobs, Mr. President. As Libya has shown us, we need to stop relying on volatile countries for our oil supply. We need lower gas prices--not just for a few weeks, but for the long term. And most of all, we need security for our children: the kind that comes from protecting our economy in the long-run, maintaining our emergency reserves, and allowing Americans the freedom to work and feed their families.


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