Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday that he’s not concerned that consumers’ interest in efficient vehicles will tail off when gasoline prices fall.
Automakers Ford and GM posted strong first-quarter profits in part due to sales of gas-saving models.
LaHood told reporters that today’s models have enough comfort and pickup to keep consumers’ interest even when prices at the pump retreat, and also expressed confidence in preferences for alternative-fueled and electric cars.
“I think this is the direction the American people are heading in,” he said. “I don’t worry about people going back to their old ways, so to speak.”
LaHood spoke to reporters on a conference call ahead of President Obama’s visit Friday to Allison Transmission, an Indiana company that specializes in hybrid propulsion systems.
JR: And, of course, this assumes they fall very much for very long. Don’t hold your breath on that.
The chief sponsors of a bill to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and open the coastal waters of Virginia for exploration have received more than $8.8 million combined in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry, a review of campaign finance records shows.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act by a 266 to 149 margin. The measure would force the federal government to conduct three lease auctions in those areas by June 2012. It is considered the first step in a GOP-led process to loosen restrictions on offshore drilling. Authored by House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), it faces a much closer vote in the Senate as well as the stated opposition of the Obama administration.
Nevertheless, the bill’s passage in the people’s chamber underscores the extent to which the political world has moved beyond the concerns over domestic drilling that arose in the wake of last year’s historic oil spill in the Gulf. It also serves as another reminder that, in the halls of Congress, certain legislative power comes with financial prowess.
It’s pretty close already. As of Monday, retail gasoline nationwide averaged $3.963 a gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It topped the $4.00 mark in California, New England and the Midwest.
That’s up nearly 40% from a year ago and around 150% higher than its recent low of $1.60 a gallon in December 2008. Sticker shock, to say the least.
Naturally, Americans are looking for a culprit. Egypt, Libya, Syria, the oil companies “” all have been trotted out as reasons gas prices are sky high.
And indeed, supply disruptions tied to the recent ferment in the Middle East and North Africa have taken their toll as has slightly tighter inventories at refineries.
“The supply part of the market has been behind the recent run-up in oil prices,” said Aaron Brady, a director of research at IHS CERA, based in Cambridge, Mass.
With high gas prices becoming a hot political issue, the House on Thursday passed legislation that would expand offshore energy exploration, even though Congress has yet to pass new drilling safeguards a year after the massive gulf oil spill.
The Republican-sponsored measure would open the Virginia coast to drilling and expand production in the Gulf of Mexico, but it faces opposition from the White House and long odds against passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Its approval came as gas pump politics has broken out in the Capitol.
Several bills have been introduced: The Big Oil Welfare Repeal Act would scale back industry tax breaks. The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC, would permit legal action against the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for conspiring to restrict supplies or drive up prices. Senate Democrats hope to bring up a measure to end subsidies for oil companies in their chamber as early as next week.
The White House said drilling legislation on the House floor would “undercut” reforms established after the BP spill.
The White House is attacking a pair of GOP offshore drilling bills that are on the House floor, alleging they would “undercut” safety and environmental reforms established after the BP oil spill.
But the formal “statement of administration policy” on the measures issued Thursday stopped short of threatening to veto the bills.
The statement said the administration is committed to “safe and responsible” U.S. oil and natural gas production and claims the GOP plans would unravel steps taken toward that goal.
Gas prices continue to rise — even while the oil used to make it drops in price, say analysts.
The national average price for gas this week is $3.96, according to theDepartment of Energy.
Hawaii still has the nation’s most expensive gasoline as of today, but the nation’s heartland is catching up. In Illinois, the average price is $4.32 a gallon, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s even higher than the average in California, $4.27, which is known for its high pump prices.
Indiana is catching up with an average of $4.24 for regular gas.
At least drivers in those states are facing cheaper prices than those in Alaska. At one gas station in that state, gas was selling for $6.79 a gallon.
To top those prices, just head to the car rental counter. You may face $9.29 a gallon if you don’t prepay for gas or fill up the tank yourself. With an 11-gallon tank in one car, for example, car renters could pay about $100. For larger vehicles, it could cost over $280.
Reckless operators of U.S. petroleum and natural gas pipelines would pay higher fines under bipartisan safety legislation passed on Thursday by the Senate Commerce Committee.
The bill is in response to several pipeline accidents in the last year that killed more than a dozen people, destroyed homes and polluted land and water. “More needs to be done to strengthen oversight and address safety vulnerabilities,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller, the committee’s chairman.
The legislation would raise fines from $100,000 per day to $250,000, and from $1 million for a series of pipeline violations to $2.5 million. The bill also requires automatic shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas explosions, and would authorize more federal pipeline safety inspectors.
The Senate will take up a controversial bill next week that would end billions of dollars in tax breaks for large oil producers and increase breaks for clean-energy producers, aides close to Democratic leadership told The Hill on Thursday.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the author of the bill and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the was crafting the legislation in part as a solution to high gas prices, which now sit above $4 per gallon in most states.
“High gas and energy prices are hitting folks hard in Montana and across the country,” Baucus said in a statement. “Now is not the time to stand idly by while large oil and gas companies get billions of dollars in tax breaks “” now is the time to take concrete steps toward cleaner, more affordable, domestically produced energy.”
With the demise of climate change legislation last year, attention has shifted to the possibility of a patchwork of other rules that would have the effect of cutting carbon dioxide emissions. On the state level, one popular step is a renewable energy standard for the electricity sector.
Generally the renewables standard is expressed as a percentage of the electricity generated by all energy sources, often with sub-quotas for solar power or geothermal energy.
A few years ago, there was talk of a national renewable energy standard, but in his State of the Union address in January, President Obama called for something slightly different “” a “clean energy standard,” with 80 percent of the nation’s electricity coming from clean sources by 2035.