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Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-Limited Offshore Drilling Plan

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, Republicans justify these irresponsible bills by claiming that more drilling will help reduce the cost of gasoline and fuel for the average American. Yet opening up even more of our country's shores to drilling will do little to help Americans at the gas pump. In reality, the United States is already producing more oil per day than it ever has. There are more drilling rigs in the United States than the rest of the world combined.

The drilling plan issued by President Obama that this bill amends already makes three-quarters of our offshore oil and gas resources open to drilling. Yet 70 percent of the offshore areas that are leased are currently not even active. That's 55 million acres under lease not active.

The price of oil and gas is set on a global level, primarily by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. At maximum output, the United States holds only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, not nearly enough to significantly impact the price per barrel, which is set on a global scale. According to the Energy Information Agency, even tripling our current offshore drilling capabilities by the year 2030 would lower gasoline prices only 5 cents per gallon more than if we continued at our current levels.

Gas prices are set on the world market on the basis of many geopolitical factors. For example, when the world thought Israel might attack Iran in February, gas prices went up 10 percent in 2 months to reach a 9-month high over fear that fuel supply lines would be disrupted. Though production in our country has actually increased every year since 2005, crude oil hit a record $147 per barrel over the same time period, demonstrating that there is little correlation between drilling levels in the United States and the price of oil.

What drives the price of oil more than any other factor is the large nonstop worldwide demand for oil. The only way we can reduce gasoline prices is to reduce our country's disproportionate demand for fossil fuels by increasing our energy efficiency, improving the fuel mileage of our cars, and developing renewable energy resources. Federal policies should focus on these kinds of demand-reducing improvements, not on increasing the land available for drilling. I make it very clear over and over again that I'll be the last person standing off the shores of Florida if we continue down the path of wanting to drill in that area.

Mr. Chairman, with all this in mind, my amendment requires applicants for drilling or exploration to explain in detail to what extent and by when any oil is found on the leased property will that decrease the price of oil for the American consumer.

More drilling will put our businesses, as well as our environment and our health, at an increased risk. Since we know that there's no correlation between gas prices and U.S. drilling, this bill is really nothing more than a giveaway, and I know my good friend from Washington will say that it is not. He perceives it as not a giveaway. I do. I think that it's nothing more than a giveaway to the oil and gas companies. My goodness, gracious, have we not given them enough?

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I thank the gentleman. But in the Gulf of Mexico, which holds the largest volume of undiscovered technically recoverable resources, 32 million acres are under lease. However, only approximately 10 million acres have approved exploration or development plans, and only 6.4 million of these acres are in production. Leased areas in the Gulf of Mexico that are not producing or are not subject to pending or approved exploration and development plan are estimated to contain 17.9 billion barrels of UTRR oil and 49.7 trillion cubic feet.

So I will make the argument again to my dear friend that if we're talking about doing everything that you called for--and I know it's most sincerely--if we do that, we are not talking about reducing the price of gas but by a nickel. So show me the plan to get us to energy independence by drilling.

Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Reclaiming my time, what the gentleman is talking about is lease sales. Somebody has made an investment. They do not know if that area has any oil or natural gas. They don't know. They will go through all the studies. They'll spend millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars finding out if there is something there. Then, if they think there is, they will drill, costing that much more.

Now, I might add, with these lease sales, there is a set time. The Federal Government gets money from these lease sales. Why would somebody give the money to the Federal Government if they didn't think there was something there? And, by the way, many times these leases come up empty and the company walks away and the only revenue goes to the Federal Government.

But let me speak to one other area of the amendment, because what the gentleman is really saying with this amendment is he is asking somebody that produces a crude product to estimate the price of a finished product. That's like telling an apple grower in my part of the country that, if he or she is to sell apples overseas, what's the price of applesauce going to be down the line? Now, it doesn't make any sense to do that. Now, whether the gentleman purposely did that or not, I don't know. But in any case, I don't believe that the amendment ought to be adopted for other reasons, but certainly for that one.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I do want to say, in the last exchange that I had with my good friend, that I deeply appreciate his yielding some of his time to me, and I'm glad that he didn't compare apples to oranges. I thought that's what he was going to do, but he went down the applesauce route.

Mr. Chairman, my Republican colleagues continue, in my opinion, to cling to an antiquated 19th century energy policy while the rest of the world has moved into the 21st century. Just because the majority Members of Congress refuse to acknowledge that human activity contributes to climate change does not make it true. Climate change is not an abstract or difficult scientific principle to grasp. The effects are all around us. Our country is currently experiencing its worst drought since the Dust Bowl in the year of my birth, 1936.

Just last week, sudden violent storms rocked the east coast--they were referred to as microbursts--knocking out power for thousands and killing a number of people. Furthermore, record heat waves are having serious repercussions on crop yields.

We must pursue responsible, sustainable energy policies both for the legacy that we will leave our children and also to make certain the United States is at the forefront of an emerging green economy.

My amendment will not let oil companies shield themselves in ignorance any longer. It requires in each permit application an analysis and estimate of the impact on global climate change of the consumption of the fossil fuels discovered.

While the oil and gas found under each individual lease may not have a huge impact, there is no question that the aggregate fossil fuel consumption contributes to global climate change.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment in order to force my friends, the House Republicans, and big oil companies to acknowledge the reality that the international community is preparing for.

Interestingly, Mr. Chairman, when I was president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Parliamentary Assembly--its headquarters is in Denmark--I went to Denmark during that 2-year period of time, close to 30 times over the course of the years that I've been here. When I fly into Denmark, just coming from the side of Sweden, I see the windmills tilting that have been tilting for 16 years. And Denmark's city, Copenhagen, is the beneficiary of much of that production. They're headed toward the future. We're living in the past.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Chairman, in the words of the celebrated movie that these words came from, I'm shocked, just shocked that this is a political amendment. And I'm equally shocked that this bill is political. This is the 143rd time that we're talking about oil drilling. And somewhere along the line, I'm lost. I thought politics was what we do. That's what I do. That's what people sent me here to do. That's what you do, my good friend, is politics. That's what it's about.

The difference is where we separate ourselves is whether we're talking about the politics of the future, where there are opportunities for us to do the things to bring us to energy independence, or whether or not we are going to cling to fossil fuels until we just can't find any place else to drill.

My major opposition to oil drilling offshore has been demonstrably shown when the Deep Horizon accident occurred. There have been other accidents. You want to drill in the tundra; there have been accidents where oil was spilled in that area. And daily in Ft. Lauderdale, I see ships sitting offshore, and I find that occasionally tar and things that come from them wind up on the beaches.

We make $60 billion a year in Florida on those resources. I heard you earlier, my colleague, argue about North Dakota. I don't want to be in North Dakota in the wintertime, and I'm glad if they are about their business doing what they want to do; but I know a lot of North Dakota people, when they finish with the drilling up there, are going to come to Florida for our beaches, and that's what I'm about trying to preserve.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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