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Democrats Expose Republicans' Allegiance to Oil Companies

Location: Washington, DC

Kildee Calls on Big Oil to Drill on 68 Million Acres of Leased Land or Lose It

Democrats Expose Republicans' Allegiance to Oil Companies

Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) today joined his Democratic colleagues in supporting a trio of bills to promote domestic energy production and local transit, and to restrain energy futures speculation. While Republicans continue to advocate for the oil industry and their increasingly voracious profits, Democrats are taking energy independence in a new direction to decrease reliance on foreign oil and lower fuel costs.

Families and businesses in Michigan are paying $4.07 a gallon on average for regular gasoline -more than double the cost when Bush took office -- while truckers and farmers are paying $4.77 a gallon for diesel fuel - near the all time high and three times the cost in 2001.

"Americans consume a quarter of the world's oil, yet we sit atop only 2 percent of the world supply," said Kildee. "The solution for our present problem lies not in continuing the failed energy policies of the past, but in the development of a more cost-effective and diverse energy future."

H.R. 6251, the Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act, would compel the oil industry to start drilling on 68 million acres of public lands on which they currently hold leases or bar them from obtaining additional federal drilling leases until they demonstrate diligent development of those lands. In an attempt to attain a veto-proof margin of support for passage, H.R. 6251 was considered under suspended rules of the House. Bills considered under a suspended rule must be approved by a 2-1 margin. The bill failed to gain adequate Republican support for passage and would not withstand the veto of President Bush.

"I am disappointed that the Republicans have refused this opportunity to expand safe, domestic energy production," said Kildee. "Until Big Oil begins to use the stockpile of public land on which they currently hold leases, it makes little sense to give them more land that they don't have the ability or intention of drilling on. The 68 million acres of leased but inactive public land is greater in acreage than the entire state of Michigan."

The measure, also dubbed the "Use It or Lose It" bill, could nearly double U.S. oil production and cut oil imports by one-third. The unused land could produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day.

Promoting Public Transportation

The House also considered H.R. 6052, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act, which passed today under regular order by a vote of 322-98. The bill would authorize grants for mass transit authorities to reduce public transit fares, giving consumers a cost-effective alternative to $4 per gallon gasoline. The bill's $1.7 billion in mass transit grants could be used to reduce transit fares, to expand transit services and to mitigate escalating operating costs of public transportation.

"Due to record high gas prices, Americans are relying more on the benefits of public transit. However, as The Bay City Times reported last week, local transit systems, like Bay Metro Transit Authority, are becoming overwhelmed with increasing ridership and are struggling to operate while burdened by increased fuel costs," said Kildee. "This bill provides communities the means to continue to provide public transportation as an affordable alternative and expand services."

Restraining Energy Trading Speculation

H.R. 6377, the Energy Markets Emergency Act, approved by a 402-19 vote, would direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to use of all its authority immediately to curb the role of excessive speculation in any contract market trading energy futures or swaps. The bill also directs the CFTC to use its most potent emergency tools to eliminate excessive speculation, price distortion, sudden or unreasonable fluctuations, or unwarranted changes in the price of energy commodities that prevent the market from accurately reflecting the forces of supply and demand for energy commodities. That authority includes the powers to:

* Set new limits on the size of the stake that each speculative investor can hold in a given market;
* Increase margin requirements (the money needed to trade); and
* Impose other corrective actions as necessary.

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