Gas Prices out of Control? Seven Ways Lawmakers Could Help - or Hurt

Article excerpt

Gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon and oil prices are above $100 a barrel, leading politicians in Washington and statehouses to propose a flurry of legislation. Some proposals strive to quell voter angst while others might balance budgets by raising gas prices.Meanwhile, wind, biofuel, nuclear, and oil industries are lobbying Congress to support more domestic energy production. Many of the proposals are longer-range and thus unlikely to affect short- term gas prices, energy economists say.

Gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon and oil prices are above $100 a barrel, leading politicians in Washington and statehouses to propose a flurry of legislation. Some proposals strive to quell voter angst while others might balance budgets by raising gas prices.

Meanwhile, wind, biofuel, nuclear, and oil industries are lobbying Congress to support more domestic energy production. Many of the proposals are longer-range and thus unlikely to affect short- term gas prices, energy economists say.

#7 Drilling in ANWR

When it comes to expanding oil exploration in America, few areas have gotten more contentious debate than Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Middle East unrest and resulting higher pump prices demonstrate why more Alaskan oil production is needed - including drilling in ANWR's coastal plain, says Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska. Her bill to open the refuge for oil exploration was immediately countered by opponents' bills seeking to put it off limits.

#6 Opening up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Under pressure from Republicans to "do something" about high gas prices, President Obama, backed by Senate Democrats, has floated the idea of selling $500 million worth of federal oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's a move economists say would do little to bring down the price of gasoline, though it might get the GOP off his back a bit.

"Where is the president's plan for rising gas prices? "Monitoring the situation" won't cut it," wrote Sen. John Barasso (R) of Wyoming in a letter today, chiding the president for "a virtual freeze on American offshore oil and natural gas exploration."

#5 Diving back into deepwater drilling

Accusing the Obama administration of foot dragging on granting new permits to drill in the Gulf's deep waters, Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and more than 20 other Republicans are sponsoring a bill that would override the Obama administration's increased safety measures for deepwater drilling and force it to grant permits for more than 30 offshore drilling projects approved during the Bush administration. Energy economists say such wells would take years to begin producing and would not have a significant effect on pump prices.

#4 Approving oil pipeline to Canada's tar sands

At Senate hearings Wednesday, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Lugar of Indiana reiterated support for the proposed 1,700-mile long Keystone XL pipeline. …