Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Four Easy Steps To Lower Prices At The Gas Pump

May 11, 2011

Americans have walked the moon. Americans have scoured the earth bringing our worst enemies to justice. So why is it when we consider our energy crisis, “Drill baby, drill!” is some Americans’ only solution?

How did we get so pessimistic about our own country?

The nation is not an addict. It doesn’t need a quick fix to get oil, fast, anyway it can. What America needs is something closer to strength training. It’s bloated with petroleum — the junk-food of our economy.

America’s appetite for gasoline has grown despite rising gas prices. Our demand rose 6.1 percent from March 2010 to this past March, while gas prices jumped 22 percent, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

It’s time to get off the couch and get in shape as the economic powerhouse we can be in the world.

Here’s where we should start:

1. Stop wildly fluctuating oil prices.
How can a barrel of oil cost $145.31 one day in 2008 and six months later cost $30.28? The answer is “oil speculation,” where traders on Wall Street bet on the future price of oil to make a quick buck. There are no limits on speculation, and the result has been gas prices increasing 133 percent since December 2008.

The commodities market needs discipline. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act can provide it. The law takes speculation out of the shadows by requiring the transactions to be completed in clearing houses and exchanges. That means speculators will trade in full view of Wall Street regulators, limiting their ability to cause wild fluctuations in the oil market and trigger high gas prices. And trading would be transparent for the American consumer — you and me.

The law’s regulations are currently being written through the Commodities Futures Trading Commission rule-making process.

Now the CFTC needs more federal support to curtail speculation. It’s one of the regulatory agencies targeted to have its workforce slashed by two-thirds in the Republicans’ 2012 budget. That’s just one reason why I voted against the budget as a member of the House Budget Committee. I’m not advocating for overregulation.

Reasonable oversight provides a check and balance.

2. Tap America’s Oil Reserves.
Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest oil producer — used to release more oil into the market whenever prices spiked. That stopped in 2007. Since then, emerging economies in China, India and Brazil have heightened the world’s demand for oil.

New Jersey families need immediate relief from rising gas prices. To provide that, we can tap a portion of our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is a very temporary step that — along with tighter restrictions on oil speculation — will help stabilize gas prices.

3. Crack Down On Gas Price Gouging.

It’s unfortunate that when demand for gas is so high, some retailers artificially inflate their prices. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has targeted price gouging through Justice Department’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group. We must get serious about prosecuting this criminal act, and I have supported legislation to strengthen agencies that monitor the price we consumers pay at the pump.

4. Evolve To A Clean Energy Economy.

With gas prices stabilized, we can begin evolving from a petroleum-based economy. That’s why I support legislation that encourages private investment in manufacturing and purchasing natural gas vehicles and trucks.

In the last Congress, I sponsored legislation to promote investment in off-shore wind power and advanced plastic recycling plants to help create synthetic fuels. I am working toward bringing those bills to the floor again very soon.

Through clean-energy industries like these, our home energy needs can be met and electric and hydrogen cars can be powered.

Most important, we will create jobs for people right here in America, instead of buying billions of dollars of oil from other countries.

Independence, innovation and determination are core American characteristics that enabled us to meet the toughest challenges before our nation. They can give us the strength to conquer our energy crisis — if we can put down the junk food and get off the couch.