At Gas Prices Oversight Hearing, House Republicans Push Big Oil Agenda

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"At Gas Prices Oversight Hearing, House Republicans Push Big Oil Agenda"

Darrell IssaToday, the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), held a hearing on rising gas prices and EPA regulations, targeting EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on policies to limit pollution and its effects on public health. Before the hearing, the House GOP released a report entitled “Rising Energy Costs: The Intentional Result of Government Action.” Meanwhile, the Democratic members of the House oversight committee released their own report – “Real Help For American Consumers: Who’s Profiting At The Pump?”

The GOP’s 42-page report furthers the party’s Oil Above All agenda, repeating conspiratorial claims that the Obama administration is “intentionally” driving up gas prices to spur investments in renewable energies. It supposedly “identifies numerous Administration efforts to suppress domestic oil and gas production that lead to higher costs while helping the Administration promote expensive alternative sources of energy” and attempts to pin rising costs on the administration:

A report released today by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa highlights evidence that the statements by President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu about intentionally raising energy costs for Americans can be seen across the federal government: from blocking production in the Gulf of Mexico, to hindering “fracking” technology, and stifling oil and gas production on public lands.

The report is a melange of widely debunked oil-industry talking points. The report claims that the Obama administration is purposely trying to increase the price of gas, but experts agree it’s “not credible” to blame the administration for the increase in prices. Oil production is at its highest level since 2003 and gas prices are still high. Since oil is priced and sold in a world market, increased drilling won’t bring down the price of gas. The U.S. possess only two percent of the world’s oil reserves, but uses almost 25 percent of the world’s oil.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats’ report, prepared for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), points to proven statistics about the role of oil speculators on increased prices:

Experts estimate that excessive oil speculation could be inflating prices by up to 30%, while increasing domestic drilling would impact prices by only about 1%, and then only after a decade or more. Addressing excessive speculation offers the single most significant opportunity to reduce the price of gas for American consumers.

The report points to various evidence from market experts, including Goldman Sachs, who admitted in April that excessive speculation in oil futures increased the price of gas to a level that was no longer profitable for them. Goldman urged investors to “lock-in” profits made on commodities, “with the bank’s estimates suggesting speculators are boosting crude prices as much as $27 a barrel.”

Instead of focusing measures that would help lower the price of gas, Republicans have been set on cutting funding to the agency that could actually help, and filling the pockets of the companies that fund their campaigns. The House GOP voted for H.R. 1, which would cut funding for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, which polices energy markets, by one-third. The House GOP also voted for the Ryan budget, which slashes funding to the CFTC by 34 percent, which would take two-thirds of the agency’s staff off the payroll. 

Additionally, House Republicans are recommending slashing the CFTC’s budget by 15 percent in a proposal before the agriculture subcommittee of the House Appropriations committee. And they’re doing all this while voting to maintain taxpayer-funded subsidies and royalty-free drilling to wildly profitable Big Oil companies.

As Public Campaign points out, Issa has received $140,350 in oil industry contributions over the course of his congressional career.  According to analysis by Opensecrets.org, in just the first five months of 2011, Republicans received over $2 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Meanwhile, Democrats received just over a quarter of a million dollars.

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