The summer travel season is upon us and gas prices are, once again, on the rise. I understand that many Central Washington families, irrigators, farmers and businesses are feeling the pinch.
Whenever gas prices rise, some are quick to blame price gouging and call for price controls -with the promise that it will result in lower prices overnight. Of course, history has proven that price controls only result in the long-lines and rationing that we experienced in the 1970's, and ultimately higher prices.
As for price gouging - the federal government already monitors gas prices and investigates possible antitrust violations and instances of market manipulation. In reality there simply isn't an easy solution that will lower gas prices next week or even next month.
Facts show that demand for gas continues to increase, while supply has not gone up. Consider that in 1981, there were 324 operating refineries in the United States. Today there are about 148. We haven't built a new refinery in 30 years.
While global demand is up, special interest groups have been successful in reducing our domestic supply by halting plans to explore for oil and gas in Alaska and offshore areas of the United States. And, radical environmentalists continue to wage war on clean energy sources like hydro and nuclear power.
With that in mind, it's not hard to see how gas prices will rise and this cycle will continue until we, as a nation, increase our supply by producing more energy here at home. Limiting demand through energy conservation is a part of the solution - but it's simply not realistic to believe that we can achieve energy independence and lower prices through conservation alone. To reduce gas prices in the long-term and achieve energy independence we must:
• Promote environmentally responsible drilling for oil and gas in Alaska and other domestic reserves;
• Develop ways to make emerging sources of energy like biofuels, wind and solar more efficient and cost competitive;
• Make it easier to build and license refineries here at home;
• Reduce localized "boutique" fuel blend mandates in California and other areas that increase fuel costs for everyone and reduce flexibility within our national energy system;
• Support research at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other facilities focused on new technology to help meet our energy needs; and
• Recognize hydropower and nuclear power production as fundamental parts of the solution.
Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.