- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

For the last 30 years, I have been involved in finding solutions to America’s long-term energy independence. I ran for Congress because I am concerned about America’s economic future and because Washington needs real-world solutions, not radical bureaucratic ideology.

With unemployment still nearly at 9 percent, gasoline prices already at $4 a gallon in some states and growing uncertainty and unrest in the Middle East, American families and our economy continue to bear the burden of higher energy costs. As long as the Obama administration continues to block and delay American energy production, there will be no end in sight and relief at the pump. Drilling moratoria promulgated by the administration have had and will continue to have a significant adverse impact on our country’s economic opportunity, energy security and national security. What’s worse, the administration has taken steps to lock up millions of acres of taxpayer-owned public lands with no congressional authority through the recently issued “Wild Lands” Secretarial Order and released a fiscal 2012 budget proposal that imposes $60 billion in direct tax and fee increases on American energy production.

Since Feb. 28, the Department of the Interior has issued only two token deep-water oil drilling permits, more than four months after the moratorium was officially lifted. Continuing permit delays will increase economic uncertainty, prevent American private-sector companies from planning for the future and make businesses less willing to explore, expand or invest in American energy. Last Friday, even former President Bill Clinton criticized the Obama administration’s continuing delay in offshore drilling, calling it “ridiculous” at a time when our economy can’t afford it. The latest announcement by Democratic leadership to tap our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to rising gasoline prices will not provide enough relief to our country’s energy crisis. This irresponsible initiative further proves that president Obama and Democrat leaders are out of touch with the gravity of our energy crisis.

That is why I introduced the Lease Extension and Secure Energy Act (LEASE), a bipartisan House companion bill to one filed by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, and Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat. The LEASE Act will extend offshore leases affected by the Department of Interior’s drilling moratorium for an additional 12 months, restoring lost time, protecting American jobs and increasing energy security. In addition, this week, I introduced the Expedited Offshore Permitting Act, a bill to streamline the offshore drilling permit process by codifying permit issuance timetables and reducing bureaucratic overreach. We desperately need the stability that comes from unlocking access to and tapping into our American resources so we can pursue an all-of-the-above energy plan.

Last November, the American people voiced their strong opposition to the Democratic agenda and its continued attacks against the private sector. A recent poll by the Hill newspaper indicated that 66 percent of likely voters support expanding U.S. drilling. This most recent example of the unwillingness of the Obama administration to listen to the voice of the American people on the critical issue of our energy security is not only cause for great alarm, but further proof that the Republican Pledge to America vow to end economic uncertainty should be the priority for the 112th Congress. Energy independence and expanded access to the vast amounts of taxpayer-owned energy resources under our feet and below our waters is vital to the success of our new Republican majority and the American people.

Rep. Bill Flores, Texas Republican, is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Before retiring to pursue public service, he was CEO and president of Phoenix Exploration Company.

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