It's Past Time to Expand Domestic Refining Capacity

It's Past Time to Expand Domestic Refining Capacity

With the price of gas well over $4 a gallon nationwide, with no end to the high prices in sight, what is Congress doing? Voting on legislation to regulate the import, export, transport, and sale of “nonhuman primates.” This is not a joke, though it must seem like one to the American public. Instead of voting on a single bill to increase American made energy this week, Congress instead voted on H.R. 2964, the Captive Primate Safety Act.

The American people must be rightly furious that Congress continues with their business as usual, as if families aren’t paying $70 to fill up their minivans so they can drive to work, or take their kids to soccer practice.

In light of this situation, House Republicans have taken to utilizing a little used procedural tool called a discharge petition, in order to highlight the difference between our conference and the Democrat Majority on the very serious issue of energy security.

We have teamed up to offer a discharge petition to H.R. 2279, a bill that would expand our domestic oil refining capacity by setting aside three closed military bases to use as sites to build new refineries.

A new refinery has not been built in the United States since 1976, and the refineries that we do have are operating at or near capacity.

In fact, in 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration, the United States imported 148 million barrels of finished gasoline for use in our cars and trucks. That is on top of the billions of barrels of crude oil we imported.

For too long, we have not taken the proper steps to strengthen the energy infrastructure here in the United States that will make us energy secure.

Instead, for decades now, we have depended on oil, both crude and refined, from abroad. Often times, this oil comes from unfriendly nations, and the money we send to these states gets used in nefarious ways against our very own interests.

The time has come to make the investments in our nation’s energy infrastructure to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

There is no doubt, we must continue to invest in the future with renewable and alternative technologies like wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and the like. But we need more time to invest in these technologies.

In fact, renewable energy sources—hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass— only met about 7 percent of America’s total energy needs in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. No matter how much we would like to say we can quickly wean this nation off it’s addiction to fossil fuels, there simply is no quick fix.

So, in the mean time, while we continue to develop the renewable and alternative technologies of tomorrow, we must produce more fuel here at home today.

However, even if we were to produce more oil, we simply do not have the capacity to refine it in order to turn it into the fuel we use to power our cars and trucks.

Massive regulations and skyrocketing litigation costs have prevented the construction of a new refinery for over three decades. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have demonstrated how important a sound and reliable energy infrastructure is to America’s economy.

Less than a week after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf, the average retail price for regular unleaded increased by 46 cents because nearly half of our nation’s refining capacity is located along the Gulf Coast.

H.R. 2279 would address one of the largest hurdles to building a new refinery: finding land. It would direct the President to designate three closed military bases as suitable for the construction of an oil refinery.

Once identified, the bases could be set aside for two years so that oil companies could be invited to purchase the land from the government. Finding land can be a very difficult challenge for a group that wishes to build a new refinery.

By using a closed military base, we can provide an alternative to communities that will need something to fill the void left by departing servicemen, and we can address one of our nation’s most important energy infrastructure issues at the same time.

It is unfortunate that Republicans have been forced to use procedural motions to force Congress’s hand on the energy issue, but the stakes are too high. The American people are sick and tired of a Congress that cannot seem to address an issue that is so negatively affecting families across the country.