Every time gas prices skyrocket, hard-working Americans hear the same talking points from some members of Congress about the need to pursue more expensive, less-efficient sources of energy.
Unfortunately, this is the Obama administration's approach. In 2008, Steven Chu, President Obama's eventual energy secretary, declared, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Now-Secretary Chu's plan was simple: Artificially drive up gas prices to force Americans to switch to more expensive, less-efficient forms of energy.
In the face of political pressure, Secretary Chu recanted his statement, but his attempt at damage control doesn't change the fact that the administration has gone out of its way to implement this strategy. Immediately after the president took office in 2009, gas prices were at about $2 per gallon. Since then, the administration has restricted access to America's resources on and off our shores, scaling back leasing plans for offshore production and denying or delaying permits for dozens of projects. As a result, oil production on federal lands was down 14 percent in 2011.
President Obama brags about oil production increases in America, but he ignores the fact that it is only trending upward on state and private lands because new formations such as North Dakota's Baaken Shale are largely outside the grasp of federal regulators.
On top of all this, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced new regulations mandating refiners to meet costly new emissions requirements for Tier 3 fuel standards, which a recent study found would raise the cost of gasoline further. And let's not forget the president's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. One high-ranking Democratic senator even wrote a letter asking Saudi Arabia to provide more oil to help reduce gasoline prices.
This approach is unfair to the American people. As gas prices hover near $3.65 dollars a gallon, the country needs a serious, long-term energy plan that will lower costs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Instead of asking Middle Eastern countries to do us a favor while increasing our dependence on them, Congress should spend more time and effort increasing energy production at home.
During my first year in the Senate, I promoted policies that would expand our domestic sources of energy. For example, I co-sponsored legislation to grant permits for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Not only would this create thousands of construction jobs right here in the United States, it would expand our access to more than 700,000 barrels of oil a day from our ally Canada.
I also co-sponsored the 3-D Act, which would open up new areas to domestic drilling and would require the federal government to act on stalled onshore permits. Finally, I have worked with my colleagues to prevent the EPA from using backdoor tactics to impose a cap-and-trade tax that would drive up the cost of energy, including gasoline.
Moreover, developing our own sources of energy will boost other industries in America, especially Pennsylvania's manufacturing sector. Natural gas development has been a boon to the steel, hotel, restaurant, construction and trucking industries throughout the commonwealth. Imagine how much more Pennsylvania and other states would benefit if the president had approved more domestic energy projects instead of squashing them.
Critics will argue that the American people need relief now, and exploring new sources of domestic energy will take time. This is the same tired excuse we have been hearing for years, if not decades. In 2002, Sierra Magazine declared: "If drilling [in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] were approved today, it would be 10 years before oil arrived in refineries."
That was 10 years ago. If Congress had allowed us to explore for domestic sources of oil, we may not be having this conversation today.
Congress can pass laws and regulators can institute regulations blocking domestic energy production if they wish. But they cannot block the fundamental laws of economics. If we increase the supply of energy available in our markets, prices will be lower, family budgets will go further and our economy will be stronger.
-- Republican Sen. Pat Toomey represents Pennsyl vania.