'The current spike is a supply and demand problem, not a demand and demand problem.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in July 7 floor remarks, describes how record-high gasoline prices remain the No. 1 public concern, and what Congress should do.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in July 7 floor remarks, describes how record-high gasoline prices remain the No. 1 public concern, and what Congress should do.

"Just before the July 4th holiday, 44 Republicans introduced the Gas Price Reduction Act, a series of proposals to increase American energy production, to increase conservation, and to make sure that excessive speculation is not driving up the price of oil. Basically, 'Find More, Use Less.'

"This is the only legislation that's been offered that has both a real chance to pass and will truly help consumers at the pump.

"The 'Find More' provisions include increased exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, where states want it, and lifting the ban on western oil shale exploration. Under 'Use Less,' we propose [providing incentives for] the development of plug-in electric cars and trucks, and the advanced batteries needed to power them.

"We can and should increase development of alternative sources of energy. But conservation, alone, is not the way out of this problem. The current spike in energy prices is a supply and demand problem, not a demand and demand problem. If prices are going to come down, we need to find more energy at home and use less. We must do both.

"The goal of finding more energy at home, rather than relying on the Middle East, is not a fantasy. America is already the No. 3 oil producer in the world, and a number of states have indicated that they would like to open up the area off their coasts to even more oil exploration but they're prohibited by a federal ban.

"At $4.10/gal, this nationwide ban no longer makes sense. It should be lifted with prices where they are now. It should be up to individual states to decide whether to allow exploration 50 miles off their coasts.

"We should also lift the ban on oil shale development which the new Democrat Congress enacted last year. Our western states are sitting on a sea of oil three times as large as the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. Yet, at the insistence of the Democrat majority, we aren't allowed to touch it. They've put a 100% ban on oil shale exploration. With gas prices at more than $4/gal, this prohibition makes no sense.

"Some on the other side say that opening up new offshore exploration or using oil shale wouldn't have an immediate effect and therefore shouldn't be done at all. But the effect of allowing new exploration at home would send a clear signal to the international markets that we're willing to take serious steps to increase supply even while we move to conserve.

"There's already a strong bipartisan consensus on the importance of conservation. In addition to working with our friends on the other side late last year to pass the first increase in fuel efficiency standards in more than three decades, Republicans are also looking in this bill to conserve energy by spurring the development of plug-in electric cars and trucks.

"But conservation alone won't resolve this problem. Conservation is just one side of the problem. We need to 'Find more' AND 'Use Less' if we want to bring prices down.

"Finally, I know there have been concerns that oil speculators are contributing to the rising price of gas. Our bill addresses this concern through putting more cops on the beat at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, increasing transparency and strengthening US futures markets.

"The Gas Price Reduction Act is a dramatic step in the right direction. In putting it together, Republicans were careful to focus on proposals that already have support from the other side of the aisle. We're not interested in simply making a statement. We're determined to address the problem. We want to pass legislation which will make a difference to families feeling the pinch.

"This bill contains provisions that should be agreeable to both sides of the aisle. It tackles both sides of the energy issue  by increasing supply and curbing demand. We should do both.

"There are many important issues facing the Congress, but few are more important than addressing the issue of energy. It's time to act, and this balanced approach is a good start."

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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