U.S. House Republicans sought to link rising gasoline prices with President Barack Obama’s restrictions on offshore drilling and denial of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, an argument rejected by Democrats.
The Obama administration lacks the power to stem the increase, Democratic lawmakers said, and an energy analyst said U.S. consumers should get accustomed to price swings at the pump driven by consumers outside the U.S.
Prices will “gyrate wildly” as demand increases in Asia and other emerging economies, Robert McNally, president of the Rapidan Group LLC, a Bethesda, Maryland-based energy research firm, said.
“There is no silver bullet for a short-term solution,” he said, echoing words used by Obama in a Feb. 23 speech.
A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel hearing became a forum for debate between Republicans and Democrats over gas costs, which climbed for 27 straight days before a decline on March 5. Gas prices averaged $3.761 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA, about 20 cents higher than a year earlier.
Representative Henry Waxman of California, senior Democrat on the full committee, said the U.S. should invest in clean power “to diversify and reduce our energy use” and uncouple the economy from fluctuations in oil prices.
The administration said today that Obama would seek expanded tax credits and community research grants to make alternative-energy cars and trucks more attractive to buyers.
Obama, in his State of the Union address in January, cited rising U.S. oil and gas production to show he is supporting an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
Federal Land Limits
Republicans said the higher output reflected additional leases sold on private and state-owned lands, and that production was falling on federal lands because of U.S. restrictions.
Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the full committee, said approving TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone pipeline to carry crude from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas would do more to alleviate gas prices than releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a step urged by some Democrats.
“None of America’s pain at the pump should be self-inflicted, which is why we must do more to increase domestic and North American oil supplies,” Upton said.