A Republican Plan to Address Gas Prices

Alex Chadwick talks with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, about the president's energy plan and some reasons behind the current price-crunch at the pump.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Marsha Blackburn is a Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee. She sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Congresswoman, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Representative MARSHA BLACKBURN (Republican, Tennessee): Thank you so much.

CHADWICK: What do you think about the president's remarks this morning?

Rep. BLACKBURN: Well, I think it's appropriate that the president is out there and making remarks and talking about what he can do and what we really can't do within the next few weeks as we look at and address the situation.

CHADWICK: When you say what he can do, I gather the president can make these changes in environmental regulations for fuel. He can do that on his own. He doesn't need permission from Congress.

Rep. BLACKBURN: A lot can be done through the regulatory channels, and then there are other things that need to come through the committees. Things like the gas act that we passed in the House, but the Senate has not passed. That is the piece of legislation that would have put federal penalties in place for price gauging.

CHADWICK: You're just back from a recess. You've had two weeks to around your district and listen to people.

Rep. BLACKBURN: Yes.

CHADWICK: What are they saying about the profits that energy companies are making?

Rep. BLACKBURN: One of the things that we've talked about is that if you go back and look at the fact that since 1976, we've not built a refinery on U.S. soil. In 1981, we had 324 refineries in this country. Today, we have 148. So my constituents are saying why aren't these oil companies reinvesting those profits into exploration? And the answer for that is, well, you have to look at the permitting process. You have to look at how difficult and expensive it is. You have to look at 30 years of environmental regulations and policy that make it prohibitive to build those refineries on U.S. soil.

CHADWICK: That's one of the things that people say is the--accounts for the increased cost of fuel now at the pump is this lack of refineries in this country.

Rep. BLACKBURN: That's correct. Yeah, with our supplies. We need 21 million barrels a day to meet our needs. Of a booming economy, a growing population, and we are able to refine 17 million barrels a day. So you have these tight supply lines. You have the increased demand. You look at, it's kind of the perfect storm in energy policy with Rita and Katrina having occurred. Many of our existing refineries were knocked offline. You have limited exploration and development that has been done on looking for oil and gas reserves in this country. And then you have fewer refineries because of environmental regulation that has just been over the top for the past three decades.

CHADWICK: How big a factor would it be for the president to defer putting any more gas into the strategic petroleum reserve through the summer into the fall?

Rep. BLACKBURN: It is the right step. It's the right time for him to do that. He does need to make that available for consumer needs. There again, what we get into is capacity and refining capacity and being able to move that to the marketplace. You know, we have to look at two things. The price at the pump, and then the market pricing of a barrel of oil. Those are both considerations.

CHADWICK: All right congresswoman, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Rep. BLACKBURN: Thank you very much.

CHADWICK: Marsha Blackburn, a Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee. Thank you.

And a solution, here, a note, an added note: solution to U.S. energy crunch is coal, that's a possible solution. You can learn more about promising, new clean coal technologies at our Web site, npr.org.

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