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Gas price stories and the new supply and demand

Given the extraordinary impact of $4 a gallon gasoline on the people of Tennessee and the people of this country, I have invited Tennesseans to send me e-mails or to write letters about how these high fuel prices are affecting their daily lives. I am hearing from a lot of them.

Pat Taylor of Morristown, who is the director of a local Meals-on-Wheels program, tells me their drivers travel 1,100 miles a day to deliver meals, but food and gasoline prices could force many meal recipients into retirement homes if something is not done. Mileage reimbursements do not sufficiently cover the expenditures of drivers.

Dr. Kathryn Stewart of Winchester tells me that the school nutrition director has had to raise school lunch prices 50 cents per meal to compensate for the rise in gas and food prices, but they will still lose money this year. She worries about the future of her business.

Abbie Byrom of Johnson City is a third-year medical student at East Tennessee State University. She lives on loans through the school system. But, she says, cost-of-living loans do not cover expenses on traveling to all the area hospitals and medical centers. She says most of her fellow students are living by maxing out their credit cards.

While Tennesseans understand the effects high gas prices are having on families, businesses, and our communities, there are some in Washington who simply ignore the fundamental laws of supply and demand and refuse to help address the skyrocketing prices. Most Democrats in Congress oppose exploring for oil in Alaska, and Democrats — such as Sen. Barack Obama — voted against more exploration for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico even as that legislation attracted support from more than 70 senators from both sides of the aisle. Many of these same elected officials also oppose other critical energy sources like nuclear power, which provides 20 percent of our electricity today and 70 percent of our clean carbon-free electricity. Sen. Obama is the leader of the crowd in Congress that says no to more American oil and natural gas, no to more nuclear power plants, and yes to higher fuel costs.

I believe we can start to address our energy problem by giving states the opportunity to explore offshore for oil and gas. We could produce an extra million barrels a day of American oil and gas from offshore exploration, and by adding to the supply we’d be reducing the price of gasoline.

We should explore for oil in Alaska. We have tried to pass legislation to do just that in the past but the bill was vetoed by President [William Jefferson] Clinton in 1995. Jay Leno said the other night that the Democrats objected to that because they said it wouldn’t produce any oil for 10 years. Well, as Jay Leno said, that is what the Democrats said 10 years ago. Presidents and senators are supposed to look ahead, to look down the road. The time has come for action not more restrictions and less energy.

If we can add a million barrels of oil a day from Alaska; if we can add a million barrels of oil a day from offshore exploration; if we can add 2 million barrels of oil a day from oil shale, which we can do; if we can build five or six nuclear plants a year and help us create carbon-free, clean energy so we can electrify our cars and trucks and reduce our demand for oil, then we will have lower gas prices because we will be honoring the undeniable law of supply and demand which says find more and use less.

Plug-in cars and trucks are a real prospect and an important part of the demand side of the supply-and-demand equation. These vehicles would be using 100 percent American electric energy. GM, Toyota, Nissan, Ford — all are going to be selling these cars to Americans in the year 2010. Sixty cents is the cost of the charge for a 30-mile drive. It is about the same amount of electricity it takes to use your water heater for one day.

If we were to electrify half our cars and trucks in America, over time we could cut in half the amount of oil we import. That would cut from $500 billion to $250 billion the amount of money we are sending overseas to people, many of whom are funding the terrorists trying to kill us.

So there are a number of policy changes we should make now to lower gas prices. We cannot afford to let misguided policies based on flawed concepts of supply and demand prevent us from taking advantage of our own resources.

Keep sending me your e-mails and letters about high gas prices, and I will continue taking those messages to the Senate floor to show Washington that Americans really do understand what is causing high gas prices and are ready for Congress to take action.


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