Senator John ThuneIt is difficult to imagine Independence Day without people traveling to and across South Dakota to enjoy Mount Rushmore, local parades, or other celebrations, but the reality is that with the high cost of fuel, many families have been forced to cut back on travel. Tourism is a vital industry in South Dakota, but the cost of fuel impacts every part of our economy, especially agriculture.
While fuel prices are largely a result of market forces, there are opportunities for Congress to take action. I am pleased to be a cosponsor of the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008, which takes a comprehensive approach to fighting the main forces behind increased gas prices: limited supply, increased demand, and dangerous energy market speculation.
The United States has vast proven oil reserves, but partisan politics prevents a great deal of exploration. In a time where we import 60 percent of the oil we use at close to $140 per barrel, we must do more to expand our domestic supply.
The legislation I have cosponsored would allow coastal states to waive the moratorium on petroleum exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf. Drilling would not occur closer than 50 miles from the coast, and would be done according to strict environmental standards.
Similarly, it is estimated that there are at least 800 billion recoverable barrels of oil in shale in parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The Gas Price Reduction Act would clear the way for research, development, and responsible exploration of this untapped resource.
While increasing our domestic oil supply is vital to long-term energy security, we must also make conservation measures a part of our strategy. Advances in fuel economy are changing the way cars are designed, and consumers are responding well. Our bill would stimulate research into advanced battery technology that could make plug-in electric vehicles a widely available alternative in the near future.
The final plank of the proposed strategy to lower gas prices is increasing the capability of the Commodity Futures Trade Commission to explore the possibility of excessive speculation. The legislation would increase the number of "cops on the beat" with respect to oil speculation and provide the means to monitor international regulation of commodities markets.
The answer to our energy crisis is simple: we must find more energy and develop technology to use less. I am committed to working with my colleagues in both parties to find realistic solutions to our supply and demand problems, as well as increasing the use of renewable fuels and limiting over-speculation in the oil futures markets. I have joined a bipartisan group of 10 Senators calling for an unbiased energy summit after the 4th of July, which I believe can lead to real solutions. This challenge is one of the greatest facing our nation today and it demands that leaders put aside their differences and do what's right for those they represent.