With the unemployment rate and gas prices remaining high and concerns over unrest in the Middle East growing, the House today passed a package of domestic energy bills aimed at reducing costs while increasing supply. Area Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) voted in support of the legislation, which passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 248 to 163.
"Instead of creating more regulation and restrictions, we need a commonsense plan to increase production of all kinds of energy here at home. We can drive down energy prices and create more jobs at the same time," said Thornberry. "These are the goals we are trying to accomplish with this bill," he continued.
The Domestic Energy and Jobs Act encourages an all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes oil, wind, solar, coal, natural gas, shale oil, hydropower, geothermal, and minerals. It seeks to open more land for drilling each year, streamline the energy permitting process, allow for Internet-based auctions for onshore leases, and reduce excessive regulations that has been placed on energy producers.
While gas prices have increased by 107 percent since January 2009, White House policies and regulation have slowed the rate of permitting, drilling, and production on federal lands during that time. By setting a firm 30-day timeline for the Interior Secretary to act on a permit, the House-passed legislation will eliminate unnecessary government delays and hurdles that have jeopardized the nation's energy and economic security.
In addition, the bill increases access to the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. If signed into law, it will reduce bureaucratic delays to the construction of roads and pipelines that are necessary to transport oil and natural gas once it is produced in the Reserve. Supporters of the legislation pointed to the fact that ConocoPhillips waited over four years for a permit to build a bridge and pipeline in order to transport oil and natural gas out of a ready-to-produce field as evidence that the measure would help increase domestic supply by streamlining the process.
To help ensure U.S. national security, the bill also requires the Obama Administration to increase American energy production when releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Instead of using fuel from the SPR to temporarily bring gas prices down, the Reserve should be set aside for national energy emergencies, as it was intended.
The House has passed nearly 30 bills this year aimed at growing our economy and getting Americans back to work. These bills await Senate action before the end of the current session.