A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 69% of respondents said they had been affected "a great deal" or "quite a bit" by the increase in gas prices this year. Average gas prices have recently fallen, but they remain 90 cents higher per gallon than a year ago. These higher costs continue to strain families, farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and seniors across the Third District of Nebraska.
Historically, Americans have spent about 8% of their overall retail purchases on gasoline. Earlier this year that average hit 11% - meaning out of every dollar spent on retail purchases 11 cents went to gas stations. Not only is this figure 38 percent higher than average, it is the highest since September 2008.
Rising energy costs not only increases the price of gas, but also the costs of food, heat, commodities, and other goods and services. Many businesses are forced to increase prices for their customers to offset elevated transportation costs. Even worse, the more businesses spend filling up their gas tanks, the fewer jobs they are able to create. Further, expensive energy prices disproportionately affect rural areas like the Third District. For example, farmers and ranchers spend an average of 58% more on energy as a percentage of income than their urban counterparts.
Until a comprehensive energy policy is created to address the soaring costs of energy, we risk a prolonged economic downturn. For too long American energy policy has focused on limiting energy production within our borders and making it more expensive. The current Administration has burdened domestic energy producers with irresponsible regulations and inaction instead of working with Congress to develop policies which utilizes the abundant resources our country possesses.
On Aug. 12, responsible American energy development received an important victory from a federal judge in Wyoming. Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal struck down detrimental energy policies the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service issued in 2010. The Department of the Interior attempted to circumvent the legislative process by substantially changing the permitting process established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis to combat the growing energy crisis. While this decision may seem small, it is a critical, common-sense step on the path toward more domestic energy production.
A strategic, all-of-the-above approach to energy policy, which utilizes American engineering, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, will strengthen our economy and create thousands of new jobs, right here at home. More importantly, by encouraging responsible use of existing American resources, cost burdens on Nebraskans will be lessened.
For more information about energy issues, the latest developments in Congress, or to sign up for my e-mail newsletter, please visit my website at http://adriansmith.house.gov