Thune prods president on energy policyAdministration has ‘gone out of its way’ to block domestic oil production, senator says.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
The United States should clear the regulatory way to boost domestic oil production, U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Wednesday. But the Obama administration is blocking such work, Thune complained.
“His administration, in a very systematic way, has turned down polices that would lead to greater domestic production,” Thune told reporters.
Joining a rising barrage of gas-price complaints by Republicans across the country, Thune accused Obama and his top staffers of aiming for higher gas prices. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a congressional committee Tuesday that the administration’s “overall goal” is not to reduce gas prices in the short term but rather to bring other forms of energy into the marketplace so as to lower energy prices in the long term and reduce dependency on oil, according to Thune and media reports.
Chu also said in 2008 that American gas prices should be as high as European prices in order to hasten change.
In his call with reporters, Thune called on President Obama to clear the way for oil drillers to produce 4.5 million barrels of oil he said are “just sitting there” in places like Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
“It makes no sense why this administration year after year has resisted — they have literally gone out of their way to block development of American energy resources. It’s got to stop,” Thune said. “If it doesn’t, you are going to see gas prices continue to put a stranglehold on our economy. ... I understand the long-term goal of getting away from oil, but the short-term goal ought to be, let’s keep this economy going. This has a direct impact on the pocketbooks of every American. “
Thune derided as un-American a proposal from Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ask Saudi Arabia to boost oil production.
“The very idea of a country like America having to go hat in hand to the Saudis to beg them to increase daily production is just — there’s no reason for it. It defies what this country’s really about. We’re a country that solves our own problems,” Thune said. “We’ve got a solution that’s just sitting out there. You just have to have the will to do it.”
When asked if oil produced in America would simply enter the world market and perhaps not lower stateside gas prices, Thune touted the jobs oil production would create and the security it would provide.
“It is a global commodity that is traded in the global marketplace. Our ability to affect the global price really comes back to our ability to increase the supply,” Thune said. “Generating energy production here or from a neighbor like Canada, that’s not only good for our economy by creating jobs, but it also is good for our national security interest.”
Thune said he expects Congress to approve an extension of the current highway bill, probably for two years, as it grapples with a new way to fund highway construction and maintenance.
“The real long-term solution is, we’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to pay for highways. The real way to do this is to make it a user-fee based program,” Thune said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure South Dakota continues to receive its fair share of highway funding and that rural states are not unfairly impacted. If we are going to have a highway system, we’ve got to be able to maintain it in all the states around the country. That’s what’s going to make us competitive in a world marketplace.”
Thune said there has been some discussion that committee members could mark up a new farm bill before Easter, with a goal of passing a final bill before the current bill expires Sept. 30.
“We need to make sure we create ag policy that provides an adequate safety net, makes ag production sustainable and is not damaging to the environment,” Thune said.
He repeated his past statements that crop insurance is likely to be key to the next farm bill and that direct payments are likely to end as Congress looks for ways to cut spending. Direct payments are subsidies paid to grain and cotton producers.
There has been some discussion by Thune and others that Congress won’t be able to agree on a retooled farm policy and that it would simply extend the current bill for a few years.