The price of gasoline has jumped to over $4 a gallon and is showing no signs of falling. This problem has been a long time in the making, and there will be no easy, short-term, silver-bullet solutions. We need to lay the framework for a comprehensive overhaul of our national energy policy. We must begin with an honest understanding of what has brought us to this point, and start to take action now to see progress in the near, middle and long term.

As global oil demand climbed, supply could not keep up. Crude oil reserves and production have increased, but there is little spare capacity in the crude oil market. Production in many areas of the world is increasingly riskier and costlier to bring to market. In the United States, the shortfall in oil refinery capacity has more than doubled to over three million barrels per day since the 1990s. The end result: We have increased our net oil imports 67 percent to fuel our habits, exacerbating our dependence on foreign oil at grave risk to our national security.

In the near-term, there are several things we can do to combat the crisis. First, crude oil is a financial asset, and speculation has quintupled since 2002. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has not provided adequate oversight of hedge funds and banks, allowing investors to buy large amounts of oil contracts. Many believe this has contributed to the record climb in oil prices. There are varying opinions on what impact proper oversight could have on driving down prices, but these experts believe it could be between two percent and 10 percent, which could be felt quickly in the near-term. That is why I voted for H.R. 6377, which directs the CFTC to properly use its authority and emergency powers to curb the excessive role of speculation in the energy markets. While it did not pass, I also voted for H.R. 6346, the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act, to make sure companies do not engage in price gouging and to protect the American consumer.

We also face an alarming devaluation of our currency, in large part, because the economic policies of the past few years have thrown our country into $9 trillion in debt. The U.S. dollar is the currency in which oil transactions take place around the world. As a result, the weak dollar has a major impact on the cycle of rising prices -- oil exporters raised their prices to maintain their revenues. Experts say a 10 percent strengthening in the value of the dollar could yield a 10 percent to 40 percent reduction in the price of oil. We must work under a pay-as-you-go government to bring down our national debt and rebuild confidence in the dollar.

I support drilling for oil and gas to increase production, but we need to do it on land that has already been leased to oil companies but is not being produced. The top nine oil companies made a combined $1.27 trillion profit in 2007, yet, they have stockpiled nearly 10,000 drilling permits, as well as leases to nearly 68 million acres of federal land and waters, on which they are not producing oil and gas -- an amount that could nearly double total U.S. oil production and yield more than six times the estimated peak production from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Drilling in ANWR would not yield any oil for 10 years, and then would only save the consumer 1.8 cents per gallon in 2030. We need to ensure energy companies are diligently developing the lands they possess. That is why I voted for H.R. 6251, so that companies have to use it or lose it, and so consumers get a return from land the government has leased out.

We must also promote responsible use of our nation's coal reserves, and that means developing the technology to mitigate coal's greenhouse gas emissions before we construct a new generation of coal plants.

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