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Yarmuth Supports DRILL Bill on House Floor

(Washington, DC) Today, the House of Representatives will consider the Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands (DRILL) Act, which would compel the oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres they already control. 

Congressman John Yarmuth’s (KY-3), who is an original cosponsor of the bill, spoke in support of the legislation this morning.

Mr. Speaker, one thing that's encouraging about this debate is that we all agree in this chamber that we need to do something about high gas prices. We need to do something to reduce our dependence on oil. We need to do something pretty quickly because the American people are hurting, the economy is feeling the impact of these prices and immediate action is required.

Now, let's consider the two options we have before us. We have the option that's put forward by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, which basically is:  Open up new areas of potential oil reserves for drilling, which everyone agrees is a solution that will not manifest itself until years down the road. The Bush energy department itself says no appreciable reduction in oil or gas price will come from drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for at least a decade. And the average American family will spend $57,000 on gasoline before the Republican plan saves them a penny.

That is hardly the kind of relief that the American people are looking for. You know, there was a very wise man once who said the significant problems we face today will never be solved by the same level of thinking that got us into those problems in the first place. That was Albert Einstein, a pretty smart guy. And that's what the Republican plan is. It's do more of the same to solve the problem that we're now in. I think the American people are much smarter than to fall for that type of proposition.

On the other hand, the Democratic Majority has a plan that can reduce oil prices virtually immediately. We call it ‘free America's oil’ because we do have plenty of oil at our disposal to use to bring down prices immediately. That is only half the problem, though, because we've got a long range proposition to deal with. We don't want to find ourselves year after year after year in the same dilemma we find ourselves in now. We've got to look in a different direction.

I’ll return to that in a second, but let's talk about the immediate action we can take. We have 700 million barrels of oil right now, which the United States owns, sitting in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 700 million barrels. When we invaded Iraq, we took that down to 600 million. During the Katrina disaster, we went to about 600 million barrels. We have far more oil in the reserve than we will ever need for any eventuality. If we were to release 10 percent of the strategic petroleum reserve, 70 million barrels into the markets over the next several months, history has shown us that we can impact the price of oil. Three times in the past 17 years we've done it. First in 1991. The most recent in 2005. Each time we did it the price of oil dropped. In 2005 by 10 percent, in 1991 by a third. Wouldn't it be great to have oil down under $100 a barrel again? Seems hard to imagine that we're actually thinking that would be a desirable goal, but at $140 it is highly desirable. We can do that if the president just uses his authority to release that oil. We own it. It's ours. We have paid for it. We can use it to benefit the American people and get action now.

Two other things we're proposing that can bring relief in a relatively short term. First, we have 68 million acres onshore and offshore already under lease by the oil companies. They don't need to do exploration. They don't need to clear environmental hurdles as they would in these other areas they want to drill. They can drill tomorrow. We have a proposal, we call it ‘use it or lose it.’ It's part of our free America's oil proposal that if we pressure the oil companies by threatening to take those leases away if they don't make a good faith effort to produce on them, we can encourage them to use the resources we already have to get oil onto the market, increase the supply, and bring the price down.

Finally, we have, in Alaska west of the area the wildlife refuge that they want us to drill in, 23 million acres already available for drilling. It's called, ironically enough, the National Petroleum Reserve-- because there's petroleum there. Estimates up to 10.6 billion barrels of oil. More than would ever be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We want them to drill there, not in a pristine area where we don't know how much oil exists.

So we have options. We have oil on American soil. We have oil we own that we can use to bring prices down in the very short-term. And we ought to be embracing that policy.

One other mention about the long-term affects. President Bush said the other day that the reason we need to open up all these other potential oil areas, is because of the psychological affect. Because if the oil speculators know that down the road there's this massive supply coming on, the price will drop. If that's what we're relying on, I say we have a much better chance to affect the psychology of the market if we change our emphasis from oil to alternative and renewable fuels, alternative sources of power. We know the technology is there. We just have to invest in it, develop it and refine it. But that's the kind of psychological affect, the knowledge among speculators, not just that there will be more oil on the market 20 years from now, but we won't need any oil 20 years from now because we're going to go in another direction. The psychological affect of that will be compelling, and will dramatically drive down oil prices.

So I say, we have a plan both for short-term and long-term energy policies that makes sense, that is not the same old rhetoric, that is not the same level of thinking, as Einstein said, that got use in this problem. And I think the American people know that this is the direction we need to go in. I think that by responding today, by passing the DRILL Act, we can take the first step toward energy independence and toward helping the American consumer deal with these incredibly high prices. And with that I yield back.