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Congressman Barrett offers solutions for energy problems

web posted July 17, 2008
By US Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
WASHINGTON DC – People are hurting all over our country as the national gas price continues to increase, and is now over $4 a gallon. The increase in gas prices has caused a rise in the price of groceries, transportation, and consumer goods, everything that Americans depend on to live their lives. I haven’t talked to one constituent that is not feeling the financial pressure – in some cases, people are losing 1/3rd of their paychecks to pay for gasoline.
While it may seem the effects of high gas prices are not getting attention in Congress, rest assured it is echoing loudly through some of the House and Senate offices and we are listening. People have asked for a solution and we see now how truly important it is for our nation to become energy independent. I firmly believe the only way we can truly achieve this goal is to take a good hard look at the resources available to us here at home to solve the problem of high gas prices.
Congress needs to look at both short-term and long-term solutions for our gas price problem. We should encourage and incentivize, not mandate, the development of alternative energy sources to lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy for the long term. In the meantime, we need to utilize accessible resources we have here at home to bridge us to long-term solutions. That’s why I worked with Congressman Buyer, and other Members, to introduce H.R. 6001- The Main Street U.S.A. Energy Act of 2008. This legislation takes a commonsense approach to the energy emergency facing our nation and recognizes that energy security and energy independence go hand in hand. H.R. 6001 enables American industries and resources to take good care of the American people and bring about long-term solutions. 
While we continue groundbreaking research into alternate energy forms, we must have access to the numerous domestic energy supplies, such as oil and natural gas, to get us to long-term solutions. The United States Minerals Management Service (MMS) calculated that there are large amounts of undiscovered technically recoverable federal resources in and around our country. Congress must open up these sources, not only to increase our supply, but to make our country safer by being less dependent on foreign energy resources.
Recently, President Bush and Senator McCain both suggested that we should allow states the right to permit deep sea exploration for oil and gas by lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling, opening up the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). They share a position I have held for years. According to the MMS, nearly 85 percent of the lower 48 OCS energy resources remain restricted from domestic exploration. The MMS also found that out of the United States’ 1.76 billion acre OCS, only a mere three percent is leased for oil and gas exploration and development. The United States is the only developed nation in the world that forbids safe energy production on its OCS.
We can look to our northern neighbor, Canada, as an example of successful use of domestic resources for fuel. Canada has become the world's largest producer of tar sands, or bitumen, an unconventional fuel source similar to oil shale. They have successfully converted the source into crude oil which may be used to produce diesel and jet fuel. As a side note - there is estimated to be more than two trillion barrels of recoverable oil shale in the United States.
Also, according to MMS, there is roughly 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas resources and 115 billion barrels of U.S. crude oil resources available beneath federal lands and coastal waters. For perspective on these numbers- the world has used one trillion barrels of oil since the first oil well was successfully drilled in Pennsylvania almost 250 years ago. The supply of natural gas could heat approximately 60 million homes for 160 years and the oil supply could power over 60 million cars for 60 years, yet, most of these resources are off-limits to development. The Bureau of Land Management found that only eight percent of onshore oil (not including oil shale) and 10 percent of onshore natural gas are accessible under standard leasing terms. 
American citizens are calling on Congress to lower gas prices. As Members of Congress, it is our responsibility to lead and to respond effectively. I believe there is no good explanation why the federal government would not give our states the right to use the resources they have to help our nation become energy independent. Congress could give states the power to decide whether or not to explore within 100 miles of their shoreline, and states could set their own restrictions for exploration while also sharing in the revenues.
The answer is a comprehensive approach, finding actual short-term and long-term solutions using our resources here at home. We need to access what we have on and beneath our soil to become energy independent and less reliant on foreign countries that now supply our energy. Domestic exploration will release our nation from the continuous burden of high gas prices and bridge us to long-term energy solutions.

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