Wicker Demands Action On Gas Price Legislation Before August

July 21, 2008

The Senate is scheduled to spend this week debating energy legislation, but it is uncertain whether votes will be allowed on measures to permit increased production of American energy. With record-high gas prices hurting Americans across the country, it would be a mistake for the Senate to not take this opportunity to pass legislation that increases domestic energy production.

To help stress this point to Senate leaders, last week I sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell asking that they not allow the Senate to adjourn during the month of August – as it does every year – until bipartisan energy legislation is passed that provides relief for Americans struggling with high gas prices. 

                                              ACTION NEEDED NOW
With the average price for a gallon of gas costing over $4 in many parts of our state, Mississippians continue feeling the effects of record-high prices at the gas pump.  A recent CBS/New York Times poll revealed 65 percent of Americans have suffered financial hardship due to the price of gas, with more than one-third characterizing this hardship as serious.  

In my letter to Sens. Reid and McConnell, I explained how gas prices are hurting Mississippians, writing: “Due to the rural makeup of a majority of my state, people do not have the opportunity to park their vehicles and depend on public transportation.  Given that reality, we are inching closer to a true emergency situation, and it is past time for real legislative steps to be taken to begin to bring an end to the energy crisis.”

                              BIPARTISAN DISCUSSIONS HAPPENING
There is growing consensus that quick legislative action needs to be taken, and I am glad that bipartisan talks seem to be gaining traction.  There is near unanimous agreement that a balanced legislative solution to our energy problems must include provisions to increase alternative and renewable energy, as well as increase energy conservation.  However, disagreement remains about whether our country should increase production of our own energy sources, something I have long advocated.

Acting now on comprehensive energy legislation that includes increased production of American energy will provide short- and long-term financial relief for those struggling with high gas prices.  The increased supply from more domestic production will ensure lower prices in the years ahead, and in the short-term, passing production-related legislation will send an important message to the markets that will help lower prices. 

Last week, President Bush took an important step toward increased domestic energy production by lifting the executive ban on offshore oil exploration.  In order to allow for increased deep sea oil exploration, Congress must now follow the president’s lead and remove the remaining ban that Congress has placed on offshore drilling.  Immediate steps should also be taken to lift the moratorium on the development of oil shale in the Rocky Mountain West, where an estimated two trillion barrels of oil lie in shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming – more than three times the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. 
                                      BALANCED BILL NEEDED
It is time to stop the political bickering in Washington and come together in a bipartisan manner to address our energy crisis by passing a balanced bill that addresses both supply and demand.  Passing comprehensive legislation that includes increased domestic production would help bring immediate financial relief for those struggling with high gas prices.  The Senate should not miss this opportunity to act.