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Peaks and Valleys of Oil Prices


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Americans have been hit by the peaks and valleys of oil prices repeatedly over the last several decades. Each time, we collectively vow to do something about it -- to generate a greater share of our own energy resources, to become more energy efficient, and to boldly advance cutting-edge technologies that can protect our family pocketbooks and national economy from the whims of foreign oil.

This time, there is real potential to see some positive, long-term actions taken and I am proud to be leading those efforts.

Recently, I introduced two bills to address rising gas prices. The first, the Taxpayer and Gas Price Relief Act, would eliminate the largest tax breaks for big oil companies, repealing subsidies that cost taxpayers $31 billion at a time when the oil giants are making obscene profits from high gas prices. It would save an additional $2 billion by fixing a flaw in leases in the Gulf of Mexico that currently allows oil companies to drill in public waters without paying any royalties to the American taxpayer. It also would expand the authority of the President to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to combat market manipulation and speculation, and would make it illegal to sell gasoline at excessive prices, curbing price gouging.

The second bill I introduced is the Clean Coal-Derived Fuels for Energy Security Act, legislation aimed at promoting the development of an American coal-to-liquid fuels (CTL) industry. I have long advocated the cleaner, cutting-edge use of West Virginia's abundant coal supplies as a means to help reduce America's over-reliance on foreign oil and this bill can help to further that effort. This new legislation goes hand-in-hand with the $4 billion coal-to-gasoline plant now under construction in Mingo County. As a long-time Member of, and now top Democrat on, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have worked to secure transportation and pipeline infrastructure to make it and similar facilities possible.

In 2007, I hosted a national conference on coal-to-liquids fuels in Raleigh County that brought representatives of industry, academia, and state and federal government officials -- including representatives of the Department of Defense -- to help plot a future for American coal-derived fuels.

The U.S. Air Force has been working for the last several years to certify its entire fleet to fly on synthetic fuels like CTL, and I have been a key supporter of legislation to provide the Department of Defense with the authority it would need to enter into long-term contracts that could help to jump-start a domestic CTL industry.

I am also working to bolster U.S. efforts to develop capture and storage of the carbon dioxide emitted when coal is burned -- something the coal industry recognizes as vital to establishing CTL production on American shores and for the continued use of coal for power generation throughout the foreseeable future.

We must invest in new energy research and technologies so that we can take advantage of our nation's domestic energy sources like coal. One of the great dangers in this budget-cutting environment is that funding for energy research and technology investments, along with transportation and infrastructure, is being targeted. Now, with soaring gasoline and energy prices, it becomes even clearer why cuts in energy research must be resisted.

Rising gas prices are like kudzu, sprouting up and choking residents and small businesses alike. We must drive rural routes, sometimes long distances over winding, mountainous roads. We must get to work. We must live our lives. And we must have a long-term, sustainable energy policy that recognizes those facts.

You can be sure that I will continue to support legislation that expands the availability of domestic energy resources -- including measures that provide for safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling -- to help diversify our Nation's energy portfolio away from the dangerous peaks and valleys of foreign oil that have been hitting Americans for far too long.

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