Op-Ed: "Oil Companies: Get to Work"
By: Congressman Patrick Murphy
Families and businesses in Bucks County are struggling with record gas prices. In order to stem this crisis we need short-and long-term solutions to lower the price of gas. In the short term, we can put more oil on the market and provide important tax saving measures. In the long term, we must wean ourselves off our dependence on foreign oil by investing in renewable energy and by requiring oil companies to drill on 68 million acres of land they are currently sitting on.
It is clear that the typical partisan approach in Washington will not solve this problem. We need to act with a sense of urgency because too many are hurting.
In the short term, I have moved to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The SPR is an emergency petroleum storage facility and is currently 97 percent full - its highest level ever. It has more than enough oil to meet our emergency national security needs. This approach has been successful in the past and would put another 70,000 barrels of oil back on the market every day. Estimates show this move could save consumers up to $.24 per gallon of gas within a very short period of time.
I have also advocated a paid-for federal gas tax holiday which could save an additional 18 cents per gallon and does not borrow from the Highway Trust Fund. To counter big oil companies from pocketing these savings, I have also backed legislation that stops price gouging and artificial increases.
Additionally, I have cosponsored the Small Business Investment and Promotion Act which will cut taxes for small business fuel purchases, and increase the tax deduction on fuel for small business owners and independent contractors who use their own vehicles for work.
While we are investing in renewable energy for the long term, we must also increase domestic oil production. While no one wants to see an oil rig on the Jersey Shore or in one of our national parks, we can force oil companies to start drilling on land they already lease and force existing refineries to increase domestic oil production.
While gas and oil prices are too high, many people don't know that the U.S. is the world's third largest producer of oil, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia. Domestic drilling permits for oil companies have increased 361 percent since 1999 - yet gas prices keep skyrocketing. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies already have access to vast quantities of federal land - including parts of the Outer Continental Shelf - but so far have not begun to drill on 68 million acres of that land.
The oil and gas companies won't drill because their inaction keeps prices - and profits - high.
Families are hurting - it is time for the oil companies to start responsibly drilling on the land to which they already have access.
To spark production, I cosponsored the Responsible Ownership of Public Lands Act, which would force oil companies to use the land they already have but are not drilling. This "use it or lose it" policy charges oil companies an escalating fee for not using these federal lands. In addition to putting more oil on the market, revenue raised from this effort will be invested in renewable energy. Estimates show that those 68 million acres could produce millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of natural gas each day.
But, forcing oil companies to increase production through drilling must be matched by a national commitment to increase energy production through innovation.
I am proud that right here in Bucks County, we are building the fourth largest solar field in America and a green energy hub at the old U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills. Here, Pennsylvanians are building components for wind energy, solar power and alternative fuels. These companies are leaders in their field. They have already put nearly 1,000 people to work with more "green collar" manufacturing jobs on the way.
We need to continue leading in an emerging green energy economy and create these jobs of the future. Public and private investment in green energy is critical. I proudly supported the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act which would provide $20 billion in tax incentives for investment, development and use of renewable energy. I have also introduced and passed a measure that will allow technical schools right here in Pennsylvania to modernize and prepare students to become the green energy workforce of the future. Conservation is also important, that's why I pushed to increase automobile efficiency to 35 miles per gallon - the first increase in a generation.
In addition to these short-term and long-term measures, we need to look to the future. The truth is that we cannot simply drill our way to lower gas prices but we cannot allow oil companies to sit on their hands while families are struggling. Most importantly, Democrats and Republicans must work together to harness more efficient technology, break our dependence on foreign oil, and secure our energy future by turning Lower Bucks County into an alternative energy hub.