The national average for a gallon of gasoline is north of $3.70. That is expensive in any era, but AAA reported that the nation's gas prices at the end of February had never previously been higher at that time of year. High gas prices are a drag on economic growth and make most consumer goods more expensive, but they have a particularly negative effect for families and seniors on a fixed income.
With so much pain at the pump, why would the President back an energy consumption tax, as Microsoft mogul Bill Gates alluded to during a recent energy conference? Why would Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu proclaim to the Wall Street Journal, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." To put that comment into perspective, the recent average gas price in Italy was more than $9.00 per gallon.
These sentiments are disconnected from the relief that American families and businesses need now -- relief that many of my House colleagues and I have pushed for in Congress. America needs a comprehensive energy plan that takes advantage of the abundant American energy resources available to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create more jobs right here at home.
That begins with environmentally-responsible exploration of our oil deposits in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Gulf Coast, the Outer Continental Shelf and the Mountain West. It also includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline permit that has been pending for entirely too long. These projects would create thousands of jobs and help keep energy production at home. The longer we delay, the longer we must wait for relief.
The House of Representatives has passed numerous bills that accomplish these goals during the past year, including H.R. 3408, the Protecting Investment in Oil Shale and the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act (PIONEER Act) last month. The PIONEER Act would jumpstart additional oil and gas exploration right away. I supported these measures, and if the Senate and the President have Americans' best interests in mind, they will too.
We must also explore alternative fuels while encouraging efficiency and conservation. Diversifying our energy resources through cutting edge research and technology will help reduce costs and make us more energy independent. Increasing incentives for efficiency and conservation, and developing alternative resources like coal-to-liquids technology will help as well. We can simultaneously pursue these policies and new energy research to prepare us for both tomorrow and years to come.
Economic experimentation with energy taxes will only raise the price of goods and the price at the pump, increasing the pain for families, businesses and seniors. To lower gas prices, the best policy is to fully utilize all of America's energy resources: those in the ground and those in the works thanks to our researchers and scientists. The House has a plan to achieve results, but we cannot do it without the Senate and the White House.