Letter to the Editor

High gas prices exact real toll

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dear Editor:

Cedar County resident Ted Purvis picked up what amounted to a second mortgage a couple months ago -- but it wasn't so he could buy a summer lake house at Table Rock.

It turns out Ted commutes more than 70 miles each morning from his home in Stockton to his job site in Joplin. And then, when the day is done, he turns around and drives another 70 miles home. Thanks to $4 gasoline, this month he will shell out $650 -- what amounts to an extra mortgage payment -- just to pay for the gas it takes to get to work and back.

With all the talk in Washington these days about what Congress needs to do to address climate change, it seems to me there's plenty we need to be doing first to make sure people like Ted have a means of getting to work in the morning. Unfortunately, with all the so-called "energy" legislation the U.S. House has considered this year, not a single bill brought forth by the majority leadership has sought to increase the available supply of energy. And very many, in fact, have actually tried to take some away.

None of which has helped Michelle Felker, of Carl Junction, whose three children are all involved in after-school sports. At a recent energy roundtable I hosted in Joplin, Michelle told me that $4 gasoline means she's had to stop going to her kids' out-of-town games. Mike Hazell, of Springfield, has started carpooling to work with his wife -- even though it means getting to work two hours early. Another woman said that spiraling gas costs have forced her to stay at her job an extra two hours after the work day is done. A year ago, she would've driven herself home. But that was before high fuel prices made having a second family car a luxury she couldn't afford.

Worse than lost time and missed opportunities, though, is the mounting evidence that the 73 percent spike in gasoline since Speaker Pelosi gaveled open the 110th Congress in January 2007 -- as well as the 79 percent increase in diesel fuel -- is starting to have a serious impact on our public safety. That's because, unlike in Chicago or St. Louis, many of our firefighters and first responders in southwest Missouri serve on a volunteer basis. For too many of these local heroes, prohibitive energy prices have forced them to choose between serving their community and paying their bills.

All of these anecdotes are true -- and sadly, not a single one ever needed to be. That's because, for all the talk about how much more oil the Middle East has compared to us, the Department of Energy believes we may have more recoverable energy than Saudi Arabia. Even China recognizes that oil and natural gas is readily available off our shores; thanks to Fidel Castro, they've been given a permit to drill for oil 45 miles from the Florida Keys. U.S. energy producers can't go there, and that's because our Congress won't let them.

Every day special interests successfully prevent American companies from producing American energy for American consumers is another day a small business owner in Neosho is dependent on stable security in Nigeria to ensure a steady flow of energy to the market. Without the oil that country produces, the world's supply will go down -- and the price our friend in Neosho will pay will most certainly go up. And in today's global trading market, it doesn't take more than a couple days for a pipeline disruption in West Africa to impact the way southwest Missourians live their daily lives.

Name another issue to which the United States has allowed itself to become this vulnerable, to events this far beyond its control. Energy alone represents the one key component of our country's economic future and well-being that is subject to volatility in the Middle East, uprisings in Africa, labor strikes in Britain, the whims of the weather, and even the Chinese Olympics.

Unfortunately, not only has the new majority in Congress failed to take meaningful steps to bring down the price at the pump, it actually helped expand our nation's dependence on foreign oil cartels like OPEC by nearly 7 percent in 2007 alone.

In a day and age where every other nation in the world considers their natural resources to be a strategic asset, the speaker and her majority considers our abundant energy reserves an environmental hazard. And until they shake themselves from the dogma that suggests responsible energy development can't be done while keeping our environment clean, the result will be a razor thin margin between world supply and world demand -- and higher prices at the pump for every single American.


Congressman Roy Blunt

Washington, D.C.