As the national average price for a gallon of gas creeps toward $4, millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet.
Every day I hear from people who share stories about how high gas prices are impacting their lives, families and businesses. I've heard from grandparents who once refused to miss a Little League game or a dance recital now having to stay home because of the price of gasoline. Several small-business owners have told me they're struggling over whether they can afford to hire new workers because of the impact of fuel costs on their bottom line.
The impact on families is alarming as well, with the average American family spending more than $200 more per month for gasoline in 2012 versus 2009. This indicator shows that while average family incomes have remained flat in recent years, gas prices have increased more than 110 percent since President Obama took office. These skyrocketing costs are pushing many families toward the financial breaking point.
In 2008, our current energy secretary, Steven Chu, said, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Last month, when Mr. Chu was asked about his job performance in controlling the price of fuel, he replied that he would give himself better than an "A-minus."
With all due respect to the secretary, the American people don't grade on a curve, and they would say he deserves an F.
To be fair, there is some debate over how much a president or his administration can do to control the price of oil. However, I would argue that there is a lot this president could do but simply chooses not to do.
Mr. Obama likes to boast about the amount of oil production happening under his watch. Although the president correctly states that on land, production is at an all-time high, he fails to mention two important truths. While the president revels in production levels created under the George W. Bush administration, the majority of production is occurring on state and private lands that are not subject to federal regulation. Meanwhile, production levels on federal lands and along the outer continental shelf are at all-time lows. The president has not said he wants to lessen our dependence on foreign or Middle Eastern oil, he has stated (as he did recently in his Keystone XL pipeline announcement) that he wants to end our dependence on oil, period. This mindset has cost American taxpayers millions of dollars that have gone to politically connected companies such as Solyndra, which since have gone belly-up.
When I took office 15 months ago, I knew that working toward American energy security must be a top priority for our nation. I have worked with my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee to pass several pieces of legislation to ease gas prices by increasing domestic production in a variety of ways. Although several of those bills work toward achieving American energy independence, I wanted to introduce a bill that took a more comprehensive approach.
America needs legislation that expands economic growth, expands private-sector jobs and expands our access to American sources of energy. That is why I introduced H.R. 4301, the Energy Exploration and Production to Achieve National Demand (Expand) Act. This bill allows more offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in the outer continental shelf, opens up 3 percent of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for production, approves the Keystone XL pipeline, opens Yucca Mountain for receiving nuclear waste, sunsets energy production tax credits and eliminates ethanol mandates. This bill also expedites the permitting process for wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources to lease and produce on public lands.
The Expand Act creates a free-market, all-of-the-above energy policy for our country. I want to see all energy forms thrive, but we cannot continue to shell out corporate welfare to the well-connected political donors to the president instead of allowing the most productive companies to be successful on their own. The government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers on Wall Street, so why should the government pick winners or losers when it comes to energy?
When the free market is allowed to flourish, the successes will be genuine, and the result will be a prosperous, safe and energy-independent nation. We are one of the only countries in the world that refuses to develop its own natural resources, and that policy has to stop now. There can be no national security without energy security. Our reliance on hostile foreign powers for oil must end. Our quest for American energy independence begins now.