As we approach the July 4th holiday to celebrate America's independence, Americans will celebrate the more than 200 years of American struggle to achieve freedom and prosperity. On my fronts, our battle is still ongoing.
From the troubled economy to a mountain of crushing debt and the rapidly rising cost of healthcare, there is no question the United States faces difficult decisions ahead. One challenge many families will confront closely this weekend is the high cost of gasoline, thanks to Washington policies that have caused higher prices, less jobs, and continued dependence on foreign sources of oil.
Oil is a vital resource for the U.S., and affects everything from the cost of our vacation travel to the price of food for our barbeques. In fact, oil fulfills nearly 40% of total U.S. energy demands, including 94% of the energy used in the transportation of people and goods. No matter what your plans are this holiday weekend, you're being negatively impacted by the energy barriers created in Washington.
During the campaign in 2008, President Obama said, "In ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela." That's exactly the kind of vision we need to tackle our country's energy challenges and become more energy independent. Unfortunately, since then President Obama and his Administration have put in place significant economic barriers costing American jobs and reducing American energy production.
President Obama has shown a fundamental disconnect from reality, claiming to want Americans to take control of their energy future while locking up nearly all offshore areas that were previously open for energy exploration and production, including the entire Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, and much of Alaska. At the same time, the Obama Administration has been dragging their feet on pending permits for all sorts of energy projects from oil and natural gas exploration to proposed wind and solar projects on public lands.
According to ABC News, in early 2011, a federal judge even held the Interior Department in contempt for failing to review and decide on energy permits in a timely fashion. Talk about out of touch. Finally, according to the federal Bureau of Land Management, during the first year of the Obama Administration, leases for oil and natural gas production on public lands were cut in half.
All told, the Obama Administration's own Energy Department calculates that these policies will result in a significant decline in American oil production, including a drop of 130,000 barrels per day in 2012. The negative impact on consumers has been dramatic. In January 2009 when the President took office, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $1.84. This month, the national average is a whopping $3.57 a gallon, and higher in Chicagoland.
For families, individuals, and small businesses, this creates a sometimes debilitating strain on the budget. According to a University of California economic study, every 50-cent increase in the price of gas takes $70 billion out of the economy over the course of a year. That's one enormous barrier for our economy.
That's why House Republicans have taken action to fix Washington's blunders. We've already have passed legislation to streamline energy permitting to bring more sources of our own energy on line for production. We're also reining in the activist Environmental Protection Agency, sometimes called the Economic Prevention Agency, which has hurt American energy production by revoking already-approved energy production permits and issuing new regulations that change the rules on companies already in mid-production. If the President decides to match his actions to his words, he can work with us to turn this legislation into law.
Unfortunately, for now it looks like the only energy independence the President is interested in is for Brazil. After working with the U.S. Export-Import Bank to give a $2 billion loan to Brazil's state-run Petrobras energy company for offshore energy development, President Obama said, "We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely. And when you're ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers."
As we celebrate the anniversary of American independence, let's not forget the greatest legacy of our country dating back to the Founders, a legacy of independence. America has the energy resources we need to maintain an adequate and affordable supply of homemade energy, without having to buy it from hostile foreign governments. It is past time for us to begin charting a course of greater American energy production and self-reliance.