Senator John Thune, Weekly ColumnAs South Dakota farmers continue their harvest and families across the state prepare for the winter months, I am deeply concerned about high fuel costs.
Gasoline costs in the wake of several catastrophic hurricanes pose a considerable burden for South Dakotans and all Americans. But as rebuilding and recovery efforts continue in the Gulf Coast region, we need to be vigilant in seeking out and putting a stop to any instances of price gouging, calling on oil companies to explain their profits and what efforts they are making to lower fuel costs, and exploring alternative sources of fuel to secure our nation’s energy supply for the future.
As a newly elected Senator, I have worked hard to pass a comprehensive energy bill, which had been blocked in past sessions of Congress. This bill finally passed in the Senate on July 29, 2005, and was signed into law on August 8, 2005. The law will help to reduce fuel prices in the long term by encouraging domestic energy production. It also includes a significant ethanol provision I championed in the Senate that will dramatically increase the production and use of ethanol and thereby help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
In addition to this comprehensive energy plan, as a Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have also been working on legislation that would provide incentives to build refineries on federal lands. This would be an important step toward increasing America’s refinery capacity, which has not seen a new refinery added to its ranks in roughly 30 years.
Unfortunately, partisanship got in the way of progress, and this refineries bill was recently defeated in committee and blocked from moving to the Senate floor for a vote. As a result, our nation’s refinery capacity will remain at status quo—a level that is clearly not producing enough oil to meet our needs and one I am not willing to accept.
This defeat was especially disappointing for me because I offered an amendment—that passed—that would make it easier for ethanol plants to be constructed on federal lands.
Despite this partisan obstruction, I will continue to fight for ways to increase domestic energy production and lower fuel costs.
The Senate will soon vote to protect the opening up of a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration and production. This is a measure I have strongly supported for some time now and I will work to defend ANWR exploration, so the United States can increase its energy supply and ease prices for all Americans.
In addition to legislative action, there is yet another factor in the price of fuel that must be addressed: the practices and profits of oil company executives.
Just recently, the world’s largest oil companies released their third quarter earnings. Some reported the highest profits ever recorded. As American families shoulder some of the most burdensome fuel prices in history, it is worth asking why oil companies are enjoying their highest profits on record. That is a discrepancy that demands a closer look.
Oil company executives must explain their recent high profits at a time when Americans are pinching at the pump and bracing for increased heating costs this winter.
This Congress has the responsibility of holding corporate America accountable on behalf of American consumers, and we must do everything we can to seek out and put a stop to any instances of fuel price gouging and domestic disaster profiteering.
While we address today’s challenges, it is equally important to look to the future and explore alternative fuels, such as ethanol, as long-term solutions to a national energy supply that is shrinking every day. I remain committed to increased ethanol research and will continue to work on alternative fuel research to safeguard America’s energy supply for future generations.