Watching gas prices rise from $2.32 a gallon in January 2007 to $4.07 this week, I am firmly convinced that Americans today face a new hostage crisis. Instead of a 1970s-style OPEC embargo, however, American families and the U.S. economy are being held hostage by a Democrat Congress that refuses to explore for more oil and natural gas. Sadly out of step with the wishes of the American public, the majority party does not get it; two-thirds of our country wants to explore for oil, but Democrats have so far said nothing but "No, no, no." The problem for my constituents is that "No'' is not an answer and does nothing to lower gas prices.
Whether it is $4 gas, or cereal boxes that are shrinking in size because of the dramatic increase in grain prices, we all face fiscal challenges because of increased energy costs. Specifically, Americans are squeezed by the extraordinarily steep rise in gasoline prices; more than a 70 percent increase since the beginning of 2007.
That is why I will continue to advocate for measures that will help the U.S. achieve energy independence and lower the price at the pump. Measures I have voted for in the past and will support again in the future include drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, responsible drilling in the Gulf Coast waters, increased research into hydrogen fuel, studying the feasibility of using biomass as an energy source, clean coal technologies, the construction and expedited permitting of new refineries, solar and wind power, and supporting nuclear power.
In our search for long-term solutions we cannot simply ignore the short-term damage the high cost of gas is doing to our economy. America must adopt a comprehensive energy policy that allows for more drilling within the U.S. to bridge the gap until alternative fuels become practical.
Since I came to Congress, I have on numerous occasions supported opening the 1.5-million acres of the Arctic to oil exploration. Each time the Republican-led House passed bills allowing for exploration. However, our efforts were stopped by Democrats in the Senate or vetoed by President Bill Clinton. The time for partisanship is over, and both parties in Washington need to realize that opening the arctic refuge will help alleviate the pain at the pump felt by all Americans.
If energy costs continue to increase at the same rate they have since Democrats took control of Congress, what is going to happen in Florida later this summer when temperatures reach the triple digits? Senior citizens living on fixed incomes won't be able to afford their air conditioning bills, putting their lives at risk. To these people, whether or not we expand domestic energy supplies could very well be a life-or-death decision.
It is about time for this Congress to wake up and face the fact that saying "No, no, no" will not reduce prices at the pump. "No" is not an energy policy. The Democrat majority must stop holding American families hostage to $4-plus gasoline, start to expand energy production and drill for new oil and gas reserves. Unless it does so quickly, Florida drivers might soon be looking at $4 gas in the rearview mirror and driving down the road toward higher prices — assuming they can still afford to fill up their car at the gas pump.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite represents Florida's 5th Congressional District. She lives in Brooksville. Guest columnists write their own opinions on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.