Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks at today’s Democratic Policy Committee hearing on gas prices:
Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing on high gas prices.
Americans from Nevada to North Dakota to New York are suffering every time they go to the pump, and our national security continues to be compromised by our dependence of foreign oil. Unfortunately, as everyone here knows, the President and Congressional Republicans have yet to do anything about this crisis. No plans. No oversight. No action.
We know America can do better.
Democrats believe we can change our future and make America energy independent by 2020. We want to rely on American ingenuity and know-how. And we want to give Americans relief from rising gas prices while making our country more secure.
Senator Cantwell has taken the lead on this effort for Democrats. With her leadership and vision, we will reach the goal of energy independence by 2020 and build a stronger, more secure America as a result.
However, we’re not content to just wait until 2020. We also know America can do better today.
That’s why we’re here. Since Republicans insist on taking hands-off approach to rising gas prices, we’re going to do the oversight and make sure families aren’t becoming victims of Big Oil’s big profits.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, gas prices have shot up once again. But let’s remember – - prices were rising significantly even before the Hurricane.
Just a few days before the storm made landfall, the average national retail price of a gallon of regular gas was $2.61 – over 82 cents more per gallon more than the year before. That’s a huge 30 percent increase, and that increase is eating away at the savings and disposable income of America’s families.
Now, the average national price of gas is even higher – $2.92 per gallon. Coincidentally, that’s about what families are paying in Pahrump, Nevada. Perhaps not coincidentally, while families pay that record price, oil company profits have shot up.
In fact, according to an Oil Daily report before Katrina hit, the ten major oil companies are on pace to post an astounding $100 billion plus in profits in 2005.
$100 billion in profits. I’m all for American businesses doing well, but we must make sure these record profits aren’t reaped on the back of America’s families.
Unfortunately, Republicans and the President don’t seem to care. For months and months, they’ve failed to conduct any oversight or offer families any relief.
In July, Republicans had the chance to help families. But instead, they brushed aside our efforts to help consumers, and instead, gave oil companies billions of dollars more.
Over at the White House, we’ve seen the same misplaced priorities. The President did tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but that’s had very little effect. And I suppose he did call on Americans to conserve, but let’s be honest: that’s not a plan.
With gas prices skyrocketing, Americans should all be wondering why this war-time President didn’t follow his father’s lead. After the invasion of Kuwait, Bush senior called on the oil companies to show restraint in raising the price of gasoline. Why hasn’t the current president done the same?
Mr. Chairman, presidents and the Congress can’t micromanage the economy, but they can create an environment where both American families and American businesses prosper. Unfortunately, it seems this president and this Republican Congress have forgotten all about families and left them to the mercy of the oil companies.
How has the industry responded? Very quietly. The industry continues to rake in the profits, while doing nothing to make the price of gas more stable. In fact, it’s been thirty years since anyone in the industry opened up a refinery and increased production.
Recently, a lobbyist from the American Petroleum Institute was overheard at a bar saying, “we’re the richest trade association in town.” That comment sums up their response to this crisis. As gas prices shoot up, they’re counting their money and buying drinks for their friends.
Mr. Chairman, if the oil companies and Republicans aren’t going to help America’s families – and it’s clear they are not – - then Democrats are going to take the lead.
We have real plans to look into skyrocketing gas prices. We have a commitment to oversight, and we have a long-term vision for energy independence by the year 2020.
We know America can do better than watching families fall victim to the endless cycle of rising gas prices.
Our constituents are depending on us. They are tired of non-answers and no accountability. And they can’t keep paying record prices without jeopardizing their family’s future.
We can and must change that future