In Gas Prices Hearing, House Republicans Demand Higher Profits For Big Oil

By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.

This morning the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing entitled “Harnessing American Resources to Create Jobs and Address Rising Gasoline Prices: Families and Cost-of-Life Impacts.”

Rather than focus on actual solutions to rising gas prices, Republican committee members advocated for more drilling, a policy which would increase big oil profits but does not decrease gas prices. In his opening remarks, Chairman Doc Hastings’ (R-WA) stated:

In order to address rising gasoline prices, we must do everything we can to increase production here in the U.S. We have the energy resources; we just need the federal government to get out of the way.

Unfortunately, more drilling does not decrease gas prices. As the Associated Press reported this morning:

It’s the political cure-all for high gas prices: Drill here, drill now. But more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet, math and history show.

A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.

This is because oil prices are set on the world market, and are “relatively insensitive to what happens here in the United States with regards to production,” as Senator Jeff Bingaman put it recently.

So why are Republicans continuing to advocate for more drilling as a panacea to high gas prices? Perhaps because 88 percent of all political contributions from oil and gas companies go to Republicans. The Natural Resources Committee itself takes an astounding amount of campaign money from oil and gas, as seen in this chart that ThinkProgress put together in November 2011.


In addition to promoting more drilling as a solution to high gas prices, witnesses called by the Republicans at today’s hearing went so far as to oppose additional solutions to high gas prices. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) asked each majority witness if they would support keeping the oil and refined products from the Keystone XL pipeline in American, and each stated he or she would not support. This mirrors the voting pattern of Republicans — all but nine in the entire House voted against a similar amendment to keep American oil on American soil in February of this year.

Additionally, the facts show that under the Obama administration, we are drilling more in America than everywhere else in the world combined. As of March 16th, there were 1,984 rotary rigs operating in the U.S., while only 1,721 in the rest of the world. The number of oil drilling rigs in the U.S. hit a record in February, and have quadrupled over the last three years.

Rather than having hearings about real solutions to gas prices, Republicans on this committee insist on perpetuating myths about the role of domestic drilling in decreasing gas prices. Next week, they are having another hearing on the subject, and it remains to be seen what “solutions” they will address.