As I travel throughout the 6th Congressional District meeting with my constituents to gather their thoughts and opinions on the important issues of the day, they continue to express frustration over the stagnant economy. They are feeling the pinch and they are particularly concerned about the rising cost of energy, from the cost at the pump to soaring electric bills. Recent estimates indicate that Americans are paying over $1000 more a year in gas than they were just three years ago.
This past week the House of Representatives passed, with my strong support, common sense legislation which increases American energy production, creates over a million American jobs, lowers gasoline prices, decreases our dependence on foreign oil, and strengthens our national security. The Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act, known as the PIONEERS Act, allows for exploration of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Virginia and Alaska, encourages the development of U.S. oil shale resources, and opens a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to responsible energy development.
This legislation is particularly important for Virginia because it included provisions from legislation that I introduced allowing for the exploration of natural gas and crude oil in Virginia's waters of the Outer Continental Shelf, commonly referred to as the OCS. The PIONEERS Act requires lease sale #220 off the coast of Virginia, which has been delayed by the Obama Administration, to occur within one year after enactment of the bill.
I believe that Virginians should have every tool available to access their energy supplies. For many years, the Commonwealth has been seriously considering the potential positive impact that OCS development off Virginia's coast would have on our state. In fact, there has been wide support for energy production by the Governor of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly, a majority of Virginia's Representatives in Congress and by many local governments in the Commonwealth.
It has been estimated by the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service that Virginia's OCS has 130 million barrels of recoverable oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. These estimates are old and it is possible with new exploration and extraction technology that the recoverable oil and gas may be much greater. This translates into a significant boost to the economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia by creating thousands of jobs and billions in capital investment.
Every day, folks across the Commonwealth and the nation are confronted with the rising cost of energy and they understand that a major component in lowering these energy costs is to produce more energy here at home. The recent House passage of the PIONEERS Act is an important step toward advancing a national energy policy that will lower energy costs for all our citizens by putting America on a path to energy independence while helping to jump start our economy and create jobs.