Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) “The Right Way to Fix $4 Gasoline Prices: Find More, Use Less”

Posted on July 27, 2008

“The Right Way to Fix $4 Gasoline Prices: Find More, Use Less” Americans know that high gas prices are putting the squeeze on family budgets. Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership in the Senate is approaching the crisis of $4 gasoline with all the urgency of naming a post office. Rather than encouraging a full debate that would allow us to throw everything and the kitchen sink at this serious problem, Democrats have limited debate to legislation that would do virtually nothing. This is no way to get those prices down and it’s clearly not what Americans expect from us. No matter where you are in Tennessee, if you talked to 100 people and asked, “What do you think we ought to be doing in the Senate?” You would get the same answer: “We would like for you to go do something serious about $4 gasoline prices and we would like you to work across party lines to get it done.” We are ready to do that, we on the Republican side, and I think many Democrats are as well. Yet what Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid did was bring up a bill on Friday, July 18th that only allows us to debate oil speculation. He put us in a procedural situation where all we can do is talk and talk and talk in a limited debate when we should be passing legislation to allow oil exploration 50 miles or more off shore, promote clean energy technologies like plug-in and alternative cars and trucks and nuclear power, to name just a few things. We could have started with amendments on finding more oil and using less oil. We could have spent last week debating and voting on a more substantial piece of legislation to increase the supply of American energy and reduce our use of oil, which is the way to lower gasoline prices. That is what the Senate should have been doing all last week. The Senate should not stop until we get it done. We want a full debate that will help our nation find more oil and use less oil. That is why we are in Washington. That is what the American people expect of their representatives. Republicans have a proposal to help us find more oil and use less oil. The Gas Price Reduction Act would find more oil by drilling offshore and giving States the option to do that on their shores, and by lifting the moratorium from oil shale final regulations -- that would increase American production of oil by a third. That is substantial. We are the third largest producer of oil in the world. That may help affect prices. On the other side, we want to use less oil, and we would do that by making plug-in cars and trucks commonplace, cars and trucks powered by electricity, which would reduce our use of oil. If we did those three things on the find more and use less side, we could cut our use of imported oil in half over time, which would stop sending about $250 or $300 billion a year overseas to other countries, some of which are paying terrorists who are trying to kill us. Oil speculation is a part of our bill, but it has its limits. We should put 100 cops on the beat. We need more cops on the beat who are commodities regulators. We need to find out more about these new financial instruments and the effect they might be having on the price of oil. But you cannot deal with oil speculation unless you deal with supply and demand. We can deal with oil speculation. But saying that by passing a bill on oil speculation we deal with $4 gas would be like saying we are passing a bill on thirst without dealing with water. We have to move on to supply and demand. That is why we say we should be finding more and using less. The Senate should bring up gas prices and put it on the Senate floor and stay until we finish. The other side has said we need to set this legislation aside, and move on to other bills in the coming days. Nothing is more important than the family budget, and what is breaking the family budget today is gasoline prices. Four-dollar gasoline is driving up the price for fueling our cars and trucks. It is driving up the cost of food because, as we know, energy is such an important part of agriculture. People are hurting. Our solution is four words: Find more, use less. Find more, use less. We believe in both parts of the supply and demand. We need to do everything we can in the next week or so to fashion a bill that takes a substantial step toward increasing the supply and reducing demand for oil -- not saying no, we can't; no, we can't; no, we can't. We can say yes, we can, to finding more and using less, and the American people expect us to do that. That is why we are here. We shouldn’t leave town until we address this critical issue. We need to start right away. ###