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Gas Prices – Drilling Off Of Florida's Coast Is Not The Answer


Location: Washington, DC

Gas Prices - Drilling Off Of Florida's Coast Is Not The Answer

About a week ago, I was driving my daughter to diving practice when I saw the gas gauge on my minivan getting close to E. I dreaded pulling into the gas station with gas prices over $4 a gallon. Like all Floridians, I find it hard to pay nearly $80 to do something that just two years ago cost me $40. I find myself monitoring gas prices and filling up in areas where gas is cheaper than it is near my home in Weston.

Some government officials in Washington and Tallahassee say they know the answer to providing cheaper gas. Drill on public land; drill in the oceans; drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Never mind that 68 million acres of federal oil reserves are already leased, available, and sitting unused by the oil companies. Forget that drilling off of Florida's coast would jeopardize our $65 billion a year tourism economy, threatening the jobs of thousands of Floridians who depend upon hotel, restaurant and cruise related jobs.

The same people that are pushing for drilling off Florida's coast ignore that more drilling has barely put a dent in gas prices: Since 2000, drilling on land has increased dramatically, at the same time that the cost of gas has tripled. They also ignore that, just last year, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported that lifting the moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf drilling "would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas prices before 2030," which is long after investments in alternative energy sources would have a much greater impact on reducing consumer's gas prices.

The problem with suddenly supporting drilling off the coast of Florida is: It does next-to-nothing to forestall an energy crisis—while giving us the dangerous illusion that we're doing something. Because even if the oil companies get every well they want, the facts will remain the same. There's a finite amount of oil in the world. The demand for that oil, especially in developing countries like China and India, is skyrocketing. That means prices will keep rising.

So, what do we do? We can best meet this challenge with short-term solutions to bring prices down, combined with a long-term strategy to power our future with less oil.

This summer, Democrats in Congress are working to keep gas prices under control. Despite the President's veto threat, we suspended shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which should temporarily lower prices -or at least keep them steady. We're investigating price gouging by retailers, who may be using the cover of high prices to unfairly inflate their rates even further. We're moving to hold the OPEC monopoly accountable for price fixing that defies the free market and artificially drives up the cost of crude oil. We gave the Federal Trade Commission new authority to crack down on those manipulating wholesale energy markets to keep prices high.

Each one of those solutions will help motorists this summer. But they don't change the big picture. They don't begin to break our addiction to oil.

So Democrats in Congress are doing more: We're paving the way for a future of clean energy. We've passed a landmark energy bill that invests in alternative fuels and ensures that, in 12 years, the average car will get 35 miles per gallon, the first real change in fuel efficiency standards in more than three decades. These new fuel efficiency standards are 40% higher than today and will save motorists the equivalent of $1.20 per gallon at today's prices.

We're also investing in renewable and alternative energy. The real solution to this energy crunch is American ingenuity, in the form of advanced fuels, hybrid and plug-in cars, or even hydrogen fuel cells. And we can help fund those bold new approaches by repealing billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies raking in record profits. By moving these tax subsidies to fund alternative energy research we'll also create jobs by placing America at the forefront of developing these technologies.

I know the benefits of clean energy may still be a few years down the road. But as proponents of drilling off Florida's coast promise to feed our addiction to oil for just a little longer, some of us are planning for the long run. Because when you've got kids in a mini-van you have to think not just about the price you're paying today, but whether you want your kids to be facing the high cost of oil in the future.

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