President should promote oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

By: U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R-Miss.)

As the United States slipped into a global economic downturn in 2008, the price of gasoline was on a steady rise. Today, we find ourselves in a similar situation with a delicate economy and the prices at the pump on the climb.

During a time when our economy is still in recovery and Americans continue to battle with their household budgets, the last thing Mississippians need is for the cost of gas to slow economic growth placing a direct burden on their pocketbooks.

At a recent press appearance, President Barack Obama claimed that he believes our country should boost energy production in the United States, specifically through oil exploration.

I could not agree more.

However, in his two-plus years in the White House, I would argue that the president has done more to suppress domestic energy production than he has to expand American energy resources.

Last year, the Obama administration went so far as to place a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – a decision that was made against the advice of the very panel that he asked to weigh the economic impact of a halt on production.

The result of this six-month standstill has been job loss in Mississippi, as well as the entire Gulf region, and decreased domestic production.

To boot, the president has taken steps to limit leases on the East and West coasts while ignoring our oil resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Earlier this week during an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, I asked the U.S. Energy Secretary, Dr. Stephen Chu, what – if any – conversations he has had with the president about expanding the exploration and production of domestic oil.

His response?

Domestic oil production is up, though estimates cite that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is down.

Instead of slowing the approval process for new drilling permits, the president should be promoting increased domestic energy from oil, renewables, natural gas, clean coal technology and nuclear power – ultimately leading to an energy independent America.

I have signed on to legislation in the 112th Congress that would help expedite American oil production, such as H.R. 903, the “Maximize Offshore Resource Exploration Act of 2011.”

I have also added my name to H.R. 993, the “Lease Extension and Secure Energy Act of 2011,” which would extend the leases in the Gulf of Mexico impacted by the administration’s moratorium.

If the president is sincere about growing domestic energy production and stabilizing gas prices, surely he will support these commonsense legislative proposals.

Expanding our supply of domestic energy would lower costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create American jobs.

Third District U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.