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Rep. Flores says energy deal possible even if President Obama is reelected

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said on Thursday it remains politically possible for Congress to strike a deal on energy legislation even if President Obama gets reelected, but the likelihood of reaching a compromise will depend on prices at the pump.

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“I do believe there is a path forward for greater access to offshore drilling, greater access to public lands,” Flores said at a breakfast panel hosted by The Hill in Tampa, Fla., and sponsored by Holland & Knight.

“It’s going to depend on the price of gasoline,” said Flores, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “When gasoline prices are high, all of a sudden everybody in the Capitol in both parties says, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ ”

A bipartisan deal, however, will have a wide array of serious hurdles to overcome. They range from resolving disputes over how much to focus on offshore drilling to deciding the amount taxpayers should subsidize the energy production from alternate and renewable sources.

Flores highlighted the sharp differences on energy policy during Thursday’s panel, when he said he doubted whether there is evidence that humans are causing climate change. 

He attributes the change in climate in recent years to natural causes, a position that most Democrats balk at as they argue for curbing emissions and other harmful elements.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of argument as to whether climate change has occurred; it’s been happening since the Earth began,” said Flores. “The question is, how much of the impact is coming from man? I haven’t seen any dispositive studies at this point that say man really does have an impact.”

While the issue of climate change is not likely to play center stage in the Obama campaign's messaging strategy, Democrats point to it as a major difference between the parties. The president has been using the issue as a punch line on the road.

“Denying climate change doesn’t make it stop,” Obama said at a campaign rally in Colorado earlier this week.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was also on hand Thursday. He joined Flores in blasting Obama for blocking attempts to expand offshore drilling.

“We ought to be exploring for energy offshore. We ought to be exploring on federal land. And we ought to be exploring more in Alaska, and the specifics of giving states the choice,” said Barrasso, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

“Yet Washington, under President Obama, blocks them,” he added, pointing to state-level deals in Virginia and Alaska that have achieved bipartisan cooperation.

Flores, despite his optimism about the potential for a bipartisan deal, said Democrats were threatening the country’s security by thwarting Republican energy efforts.

“In order to have national security, we need to have energy security,” said Flores. “Energy security is required for a robust economy and you need a robust economy in order to be able to pay for a robust national-security program.”