Last week President George W. Bush held a press conference on the current state of the economy and the high cost of energy. In it he made several important points. First, he noted that one reason gas prices are increasing is that global supply has not kept pace with the growing demand worldwide. Members of Congress, he noted, "have been vocal about foreign governments increasing their oil production; yet Congress has been just as vocal in opposition to efforts to expand our production here at home. They repeatedly blocked environmentally safe exploration in ANWR. The Department of Energy estimates that ANWR could allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day, which translates to about 27 millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel every day. That would be about a 20% increase of oil...and it would likely mean lower gas prices."
Senator Charles E. Schumer's (D-NY) response: "Unless the [Bush] Administration gets [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] OPEC to increase oil supply, American consumers are going to be in for a scorching summer of $4 gasoline with no relief in sight." Apparently Senator Schumer expects President Bush to bully other countries into relieving our economic problems. This is wise foreign policy advice if ever there was some. And if foreign governments do not want to help us we should not expect Congress to do anything about it. After all, why alleviate needless financial hardship when some Senators can use it as a political weapon?
Another factor contributing to the high cost of energy is that America's refining capacity has been stagnant for 30 years, the last time a new refinery was built. Like ANWR exploration, Congress repeatedly has blocked efforts to build more refineries and expand capacity. It has done the same with the use of nuclear energy. Congress also is "considering bills to raise taxes on domestic energy production, impose new and costly mandates on producers, and demand dramatic emissions cuts that would shut down coal plants, and increase reliance on expensive natural gas," as President Bush stated.