The price we pay at pump

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

As the price of gas at the pump creeps past $4 a gallon, more and more Americans feel pain in their wallets as they fill their car&8217;s tank.

While some have advocated suspending the federal gas tax, increasing mandates on fuel technology, adding new subsidies or raising taxes on energy producers, this will likely provide no relief at the pump and, in fact, could ultimately lead to higher prices.

Not one of these solutions produces even a single drop of oil, and what we need is more oil at lower prices, not misguided policies that provide marginal, if any, results.

These short-term fixes threaten to turn us into victims of the law of unintended consequences.

High gas prices are linked to production shortages during times of increased demand.

This problem is a result of a prohibition on the collection of oil that we have right here in the United States and a continuing lack of oil refining capacity in the country.

Yet, due to the high costs and regulatory red tape associated with constructing a new refinery, Americans must import about 1 million barrels of gasoline everyday.

This means that one out of every 10 gallons of gas is refined in a foreign country. In fact, a new oil refinery has not been built in the United States since 1976, further increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

We need to reduce oil imports from unstable or unfriendly nations by ensuring all sources of domestic energy are made available.

It is clear that the first step is to increase domestic energy production in environmentally sensitive ways.

We should open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf to exploration and production in a safe and sound manner.

To that end, I have advocated exploration and drilling in ANWR.

I have also long supported exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to eliminating energy dependence, it would also provide long-overdue revenue to Alabama and the other Gulf States. This is untapped energy already owned by the American people.

We must also encourage diversification away from oil, with technology development.

The development of oil shale and coal-to-liquids technology are promising sources of domestic energy resources such as solar, hydropower and biomass. Yet one of the most affordable untapped energy reserves the U.S. has is nuclear power. It is emissions-free, proven safe and is among the least expensive energy sources today. Yet, we continue to ignore its advantages.

In the last 30 years, we, as a nation, have blocked construction of nuclear power plants that could have helped secure greater energy independence for our nation.

We need a clear path forward that includes the willingness of Americans to fully develop our own energy resources.

I support all efforts to reduce consumption and develop renewable energy, but we cannot rely on those alone to solve our problems. We must continue to explore all economically viable energy sources for tomorrow.

However, we should not do so by further increasing the cost of energy today.

Richard Shelby serves in the U.S. Senate, where he represents Alabama. He can be reached by email at