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Wicker: Rising Gas Prices Reaffirm Need for Energy Independence


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Gas prices are setting new records in a year that analysts say is likely to be the most expensive ever at the pump. According to AAA, disruptions in domestic supply at Midwest and West Coast refineries have worsened the late summer surge in fuel costs. The drop in U.S. supply comes as tensions in the Middle East continue to push crude oil costs skyward. Nationwide, gas prices have risen about 39 cents per gallon since early July.

Particularly troubling is the negative impact that soaring fuel costs have on the economy. Consumers are forced to devote more of their budgets to filling up the gas tank and have less to spend locally. Likewise, many small businesses have to adjust to greater operating costs, raising the price of goods and services.

Energy Production One Key to Economic Recovery

There is no doubt that better energy policies could make a big difference in boosting our economic recovery. Ill-conceived policies to block increased American energy production prevent thousands of jobs from being created while increasing our dependence on foreign sources.

The Obama Administration continues to stand in the way of a truly "all-of-the-above" energy approach. Excessive regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Administration's de facto moratorium on offshore drilling are squandering opportunities to harness America's plentiful energy supplies.

Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu readily admitted that the Administration's overall goal is not to lower gas prices. Indeed, fuel costs have doubled since President Obama took office.

A Reckless Attempt to Tap Strategic Petroleum Reserve

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced indicating that the White House may turn to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in a short-sighted attempt to ease gas prices in the run-up to the November election.

The SPR was established for national emergencies and has been tapped only three times since its creation nearly four decades ago. One of these instances was last year, when President Obama released 30 million barrels in response to unrest in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, the effect on gas prices was short-lived. The same would be true now.

Using America's emergency stockpiles irresponsibly would jeopardize our ability to respond to future crises and should not serve as a substitute for real energy reform. Neither should picking winners and losers in the energy sector -- a lesson the Obama Administration should have learned with the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra.

Study Shows America Can Produce 250 Years' Worth of Fuel

For the foreseeable future, our economy will be powered by fossil fuels, and any workable, comprehensive energy strategy must take this into account. This means using resources and technology that are available now, including our rich reserves of oil, coal, and natural gas. According to the Institute for Energy Research, the United States has enough oil to meet our fuel needs for 250 years.

Today's pain at the pump reaffirms the urgency of securing energy independence. Boosting all energy sectors is key to moving toward this goal -- and getting the economy back on track.

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