Bond calls for off-shore, domestic drilling to help ease energy prices

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Kit Bond

Consumers and businesses are "being held hostage" by foreign oil producers and extreme environmentalists that will only make energy more costly without quick, decisive action to ramp up U.S. oil production, Sen. Kit Bond said Monday.

Stopping in Cape Girardeau and standing at under a sign at the Rhodes Travel Center proclaming a gasoline price of $3.79 per gallon, Bond called for eliminating restrictions on off-shore drilling and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

At one point, Bond questioned how environmentalists could oppose drilling in the refuge, also called ANWAR. "It looks like a frozen Oklahoma," Bond said of the area originally set aside in 1960 as a refuge.

As fuel prices continue to climb in the midst of the election year, the partisan battle to lay blame for the extra cost is expanding as well. Bond's statements, part of a nine-city tour of Missouri to promote his views, generally support the idea that increased incentives for oil companies to exploit U.S. petroleum reserves will bring prices down.

Bond has sponsored a bill that opens off-shore areas, streamlines the permit process for new refineries and expands the federal support for renewable fuels.

Bond also called for investment in nuclear power as an alternative and said conservation measures need to be improved.

Those steps would calm markets and lower prices even without an immediate increase in supply, Bond said. "When America gets serious about energy, that will send a message to the speculators," Bond said. "That is going to take the steam out."

Attempts to explain the rapid run-up in crude oil prices have become a blame game. The price Monday stood at $136 a barrel, more than double the average price of $66 a barrel during 2007.

Democrats are blaming oil companies and speculators. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, Democratic leader in the Senate, issued a news release last week noting that the number of operating offshore drilling rigs have doubled since 2000 and that thousands of oil leases already possessed by oil companies are unused.

Other sources, such as ANWAR or production from oil shale, would have severe environmental consequences and do little to cut prices now. Many sources would not be producing for 10 to 20 years, Reid said.

Republicans, including Bond, are focusing on environmental rules and blaming high prices on a lack of national will to allow oil companies to find and exploit domestic supplies.

Some members of Congress, including both U.S. Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, the likely presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, are also focusing on a 2000 change in the federal regulation of energy trading. The change, known as the Enron loophole, has allowed speculation, not supply and demand, to control the market according to many analysts and lawmakers.

While Bond's legislation does not address the Enron loophole, when asked about it he said the effect should be studied. He discounted the effect it is having on markets. Some analysts have said the loophole is adding as much as $60 per barrel to the price of oil.

Congress is expecting a report Sept. 15 on whether the loophole is driving prices up through speculative trading, Bond said.

While Bond took a mainly partisan stand with his energy views, he said the public wants action, not fighting. "I am hoping the American people tell their representatives it is time to get real," Bond said.

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