U.S. Should Focus on Domestic Oil Supplies

by Congressman Patrick McHenry

Editorial by Congressman Patrick McHenry
Americans have a right to be angry over current gas prices. The skyrocketing fuel costs we are seeing are a direct result of reckless policies pushed by radical environmentalists for the last three decades. These damaging policies have included endless lawsuits, costly rules and regulations, and opposition to exploring for oil here in America. The result is we have become too reliant on oil from foreign countries.

Our current dependence on foreign oil has put America in the position of depending on other nations that often do not agree with our values and freedoms. U.S. consumption of gasoline is 21 million barrels a day, but we are only capable of producing roughly 16 million barrels a day. This is due in large part to the significant reduction in the number of refineries, from 324 in 1981 to a paltry 148 today. In fact, we have not built a new refinery in the United States since 1976.

Another disturbing trend is the clustering of refining capacity to specific locations prone to hurricanes, such as the Gulf of Mexico. Currently, 47% of refining capacity is located in states bordering the gulf and 28% is offshore in the gulf. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed the flaws of having so much of the country’s capacity located in such a concentrated area. The affect of this concentration has impacted North Carolina directly as we have seen the price of gas reach over $3.00 a gallon.

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is working every day to address the critical need to expand and improve energy infrastructure, including building more refineries, reducing the number of “blends” of gasoline, upgrading pipelines, and utilizing domestic resources to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. These initiatives will provide stable energy supplies and prices, benefiting consumers across the nation.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate passed an energy bill (H.R. 6) that will improve energy dependence by providing incentives to cleaner alternative sources of energy, including new nuclear power plants and research into new technologies such as hydrogen cells and clean burning coal. I also voted for The GAS Act of 2005 (H.R. 3893), that will focus on making gasoline more affordable by encouraging exploration and increasing our refining capacity.

Exploration for petroleum within our borders is extremely important. We can no longer allow radical environmentalists to hold up responsible efforts to begin using oil from places such as Alaska. It is important to note that if oil reserves located in Alaska were accessed in 1995, that production would be available today to fill-in for the loss of capacity in the gulf.

Shifting the focus to increasing our domestic supply and developing alternative energy sources to decrease our dependence on foreign oil are extremely important. The GAS Act is the first step in reaching these objectives. I am dedicated to making the U.S. more independent when it comes to energy production and I believe this legislation is a strong step in that direction. As a matter of national security, America must not be reliant on other countries for its energy needs.