Arizona's high gas prices hide even larger scandal

One year ago, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline across Arizona was $2.31 a gallon. Last week, it was $3.08. In 12 short months, Arizonans have been socked with a whopping 33-percent gas price hike. But get ready for the real outrage.

There is a good chance that gasoline bought in Arizona came from nations that are hostile to America. Nations that profit from America's foreign oil addiction. That help fund anti-American terrorists. Whose leaders probably toast to our collective stupidity at letting our nation get so dependent on foreign energy?

That is more than ironic. This situation is the biggest public policy scandal of 21st Century America.

Our addiction by the numbers

Our nation gets nearly two out of every three barrels of oil from the Middle East and politically unstable nations such as Venezuela, Algeria, and Nigeria. If current trends continue, we may be stuck getting three out of every four barrels from foreign sources in less than five years.

America spends more than $200,000 per minute on foreign oil. That's $13 million per hour. More than $25 billion a year goes for Persian Gulf imports alone.

And that foreign oil addition does more than help keep the price of gas high. It raises the price of all goods and services. It fuels inflation. It helps keep interest rates high. It helps destroy economic growth. It robs American workers of jobs.

The Solution

What is the answer? First, we need to conserve more energy. Second, we need to quit blaming the men and women who work hard to help produce our energy. It's easy to point the finger at energy companies for high energy prices. But the truth is that energy prices are set by the simple but powerful laws of supply and demand. Right now, we have too much demand chasing too little supply. That pushes prices up.

The most powerful answer to this problem is this: more American energy for America.

America is blessed with truly abundant energy resources. According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, we have tens of billions of barrels of American oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean-burning American natural gas ready to be tapped. We have hundreds of years of energy from American coal and nuclear resources. And, we have a virtually endless supply from American renewable resources.

American energy in the Arctic Coastal Plain

Because our national security is most threatened by our foreign oil dependency, oil and gas development must be our first priority. And one of the most promising places to harvest American energy is in the ANWR region of the Arctic Coastal Plan.

New, 21st Century technologies allow us to tap into billions of barrels of American oil in ANWR by drilling on just 2,000 acres out of the total 19 million acres that comprise ANWR. That 2,000 acres is but one-hundredth of 1 percent of ANWR's total acreage. It is also less than one-tenth the size of the National Audubon Society's Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Refuge, which at 26,800 acres has helped the Society reap the benefits of natural gas production for more than 50 years.

We can reach ANWR's oil with almost no impact on land and local wildlife.

The upside is huge: a million barrels of American oil a day, more than half the amount the United States imports daily from its fourth-leading supplier of petroleum products, Venezuela ­ a nation ruled by leaders who truly hate America.

ANWR production also would raise billions of dollars in new tax revenue from energy companies. A Congressional Research Service study shows that, at today's prices, production of the mean estimate of recoverable oil in ANWR (more than 10 billion barrels) would yield the federal government $76 billion in corporate income taxes and $35 billion in royalties.

As U.S. Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA) recently noted, the mean estimate of ANWR's recoverable oil alone represents a $780 billion economic decision. His question is simple: will Congress vote yes to invest in America, or no to invest in foreign countries?

Recent polling shows clearly where the American people are on that question.

One national poll shows that, by fully a 30-point margin, a solid majority (59 percent) of likely voters believe in the face of soaring gasoline and heating costs, we should be producing oil and gas from ANWR. An overwhelming 70 percent say we should develop oil and gas in ANWR before we face another emergency or international crisis.

Getting access to more American energy for America from places like ANWR, the Rocky Mountain West, the outer continental shelf and other places where development can be done safely and in a manner that protects the environment is now a vital matter of national security.

Jim Sims, a former White House aide, is president of Americans for American Energy, a non-profit advocacy coalition dedicated to strengthening America's energy independence and weaning our nation from foreign sources of energy.

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