A Mississippi talk radio host made a good point the other day about gas prices. He observed that as prices again approach $3 a gallon, the national media are mostly quiet and not reporting sharp price spikes with the vigor they did last year before the Democratic takeover of Congress.
He’s right, but Americans this week who are paying $70 for a tank of gas really don’t care how this story is covered in New York or even Jackson. The problem is in Washington, where Democrats and Republicans only intermittently have been attuned to fuel prices – boldly denouncing them when they rise, but kicking the issue down the road when prices retreat.
Americans who, regardless of price, have to buy fuel for their transportation or their business, continue asking America’s elected leaders to address the energy issue in a comprehensive way.
This week Congress and the Administration delivered part of the solution. The Department of Interior announced a major federal plan to boost oil and natural gas production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
Off the shores of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico, this program could produce 10 billion barrels of oil and 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 40 years.
Putting aside the often-deserved finger pointing at oil companies and environmental groups, we actually know the best way to lower energy costs. It’s quite simple: Produce more of everything. We need more oil and gas from America. We must produce more alternative energy like Mississippians soon will do at our upcoming ethanol, biodiesel and lignite plants around the state.
A component of this long-term, whole-package approach is to have more energy production in the Gulf of Mexico.
The staggering amount of energy resulting from this expansion could strike a blow against the oil-rich, but democracy-poor foreign dictatorships like Venezuela who want to blackmail America over our energy dependence.
Every bit of oil, gas and alternative fuel we produce here helps.
The increased energy production this Interior Department initiative spurs could help temper rising worldwide energy prices. Without more supply, they will continue upward as demand – primarily in India and China – dramatically increases and depletes supply.
In the Gulf, much of this new domestic production will occur in and around what’s known as “Lease Sale 181,” about 100 miles off the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama. Exploration of this area was approved in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act which I helped shepherd through the Senate last year.
In addition to obtaining more domestic energy for America, this act will bring more money to coastal states like Mississippi which host this production off our shores.
There was a time when royalties from offshore exploration were deposited in the federal treasury in Washington, but I, along with Members of Congress from other coastal states, worked hard to ensure that a portion of these proceeds returns to energy-producing states.
Coupled with the benefit of having more oil and gas on hand, this new offshore development will generate jobs and growth – about $170 billion dollars for America’s economy.
As the demand for energy inevitably grows, we must match this growth with supply. America needs both increased domestic production of traditional fuels and alternative energy production.
An expansion of coastal drilling alone is not the answer. As I’ve said for years, we need to enact a national energy policy. But this expansion is part of the solution by producing more domestic energy from more sources. More of everything means less investment at the pump.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email