House committee addresses price of gas at hearing

Rep. Tipton stresses need to decrease dependence on foreign oil in America

WASHINGTON – While a solution to rising gasoline prices is no nearer than before, a committee heard testimony about how the high prices will affect tourism this summer.

The House Committee on Natural Resources met Tuesday to address rising gasoline prices this summer, a period when gas prices generally rise. The big five oil companies, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell made a combined profit of $137 billion in 2011, a record high according to a study by the Center for American Progress.

For U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and most of his Republican counterparts, the answer lies in decreasing dependence on foreign oil. The Associated Press released a statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly gasoline prices and domestic oil production last week. They concluded there was no statistical correlation between domestic oil and gas prices. Four independent statisticians came to the same conclusion, according to the AP.

Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, testified at the committee hearing. He described rising gas prices as a culture of assumptions.

“It’s more like a psychology, a fear that drives prices up,” said Weiss. “If people expect prices to continue to rise then people will bid now to lock in a price, and that will drive up the price.”

The national average for regular gasoline is $3.90 per gallon, according to AAA. Colorado is a bit lower at $3.72, but still higher than the national average for last year when it was $3.58.

“American families and small businesses are already on tight budgets, and this severe increase in fuel costs could prove devastating for many who rely on tourism and transportation for their livelihoods,” Tipton said in a statement. Tipton cited in his testimony that when Obama took office, American families spent $170 a month on gas, and it has since doubled to $360 a month.

This week, a bill in the Senate is being considered which would repeal tax subsidies for the five largest oil companies. A motion on Monday night to move forward with the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“It would only affect prices in the long term if these loopholes were closed, and instead, the money was invested in technologies that would reduce our use of oil,” said Weiss. “If you took that money and invested in transit or invested it in electric or invested it in cars. Those would all reduce demand and pressure on the long term.”

The bill in the Senate would raise $20 billion in revenue. If it passes in its current form, it would fund several renewable-energy tax credits, including one from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s, D-Colo., extending a wind-tax credit.

Kelcie Pegher is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. Reach her at herald@durangoherald.com.

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