Drill here, sell there, pay more

It might surprise Americans to learn that in 2011, our nation’s No. 1 export was our fuel.

That’s right. For the first time in 62 years, since Harry Truman was president, the United States was a net exporter of oil products. An estimated $88 billion worth of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products was sent to overseas markets last year. 

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Meanwhile, the price of gasoline is up 37 cents per gallon compared to a year ago, according to AAA. Consumers are now being tipped upside down at the pump all year long, not just during the summer driving months. 

Last year, gas prices rose and small business froze. Job growth stalled and the United States teetered on the brink of a double-dip recession. 

Meanwhile, OPEC posted an unprecedented $1 trillion in revenues. A trillion dollars buys bigger palaces for Saudi sheiks and fuels Iran’s nuclear weapons program — and works its way into the hands of terrorist cells.

Using less oil — and building cars that run without it — remains an economic and national security priority. So is keeping the domestic oil we produce in the United States here at home. We only possess 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet each year we consume nearly 25 percent of the world’s oil production.

For years Republican leaders have screamed “drill here, drill now, pay less.” But we are drilling. Under the Obama administration, U.S. oil production is the highest it has been in nearly a decade, and our natural-gas production is at an all-time high. 

Yet big oil companies are maximizing their profits by selling our oil products at higher prices in developing markets such as China and Latin America. 

The five largest oil companies posted $137 billion in profits in 2011 — up 75 percent from the previous year. BP, just two years removed from the worst oil spill in U.S. history, made $3 million an hour. 

Meanwhile, these oil giants and their allies in Congress successfully preserved the more than $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies we give to the oil industry each year and prevented drilling-safety legislation from reaching the House floor. 

Now those same oil companies are fighting efforts to keep our natural gas at home. Exporting natural gas is a clear threat to affordable American industry, from electricity to agriculture and manufacturing. The oil-and-gas industry’s plans could result in 18 percent of our domestic natural-gas supply being exported. Our nation’s energy analysts warn that exporting this much natural gas could spike U.S. prices by more than 50 percent, as natural-gas prices are not set on a world market. In fact, prices in Asia are four times higher than they are here. Prices in Europe are three times higher. That is our advantage. Yet Republicans are opposing Democratic proposals to keep our natural gas in America to help American consumers. 

It appears that the real GOP energy plan is “drill here, sell there and pay more.”

When it comes to exporting natural gas, billionaire Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens might have said it best: “If we do it, we’re truly going to go down as America’s dumbest generation. … It’s bad public policy to export natural gas.”

The Republican “sell there” oil policy even extends to the debate over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. 

The pipeline will carry Canadian tar sands, some of the dirtiest, most pollution-packed oil on the planet. The pipeline will travel over aquifers that provide clean, fresh drinking water to farms and families in America’s heartland. 

Last December, I asked the president of TransCanada point-blank if he would agree to keep fuels made from oil shipped through the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States. He replied, “No.”

To sell the project, TransCanada, the GOP and allies in conservative media have exaggerated jobs numbers. In truth, TransCanada told the State Department that Keystone XL would create between only 2,500 and 6,000 temporary jobs. 

Meanwhile, the GOP plan to raise taxes on the wind industry at the end of this year will kill 37,000 permanent and existing jobs in clean energy. 

An energy agenda that places oil above all is not helping Americans find work or achieve energy security. As we build America’s clean-energy future, we also must also ensure that our domestic oil and natural-gas resources stay here in America.

Markey is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


The Hill Special Report: Energy & Environment
♦ Sen. Bingaman: Time short to save clean-energy jobs
♦ Sen. Shaheen: Energy efficiency is good policy, good for economy
♦ Sen. Boxer: Attack on environment continues
♦ Rep. Hastings: Actions louder than words for Obama on energy
♦ Rep. Whitfield: White House is all talk on its energy strategy
♦ Rep. Olson: We need to reduce dependence on foreign oil
♦ Rep. Latta: Obama doesn’t back up his energy rhetoric