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The annual spike in gas prices triggered by the turmoil in the Middle East has started well before the summer months, forcing party leaders to begin the push for their respective energy policies months ahead of schedule.
Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and other top Republicans will wade into the issue today with a press conference aimed at attacking the Obama administration’s energy policies, charging they have contributed to the spike in prices.
House leadership aides acknowledge the sudden spike in prices has caught them off guard, explaining they had initially planned to begin a debate over energy policy closer to Memorial Day and the traditional start of summer vacation season.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide said there have been multiple meetings this week among leadership aides and relevant committee staff to discuss various policy proposals and they plan to have another today. Senate Democrats and the White House have coordinated their work on the issue, the aide said.
Options on the table include incentives for “deployment of natural gas and electric vehicles” to help wean the country off foreign sources of oil — a measure, the aide said, that Republicans balked at when it was introduced last year.
Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said Republicans have already begun the drumbeat on the energy issue and have their plan ready.
“Our plan today is the plan that we advanced in 2008 when the last big gas price increase [occurred], which if it had been adopted would be helping gas prices today,” Alexander said. “We said, ‘Find more, use less.’”
Alexander said the GOP Conference would continue to push for more offshore exploration for natural gas and oil, the construction of new nuclear plants, the use of electric cars and the development of clean energy.
“We think that rising gas prices along with all the new regulations coming out over the next year are going to throw a big wet blanket on our economic recovery and what we need to do about it is to find more American oil and that means go offshore, go to federal lands, go to Alaska,” he said.
The Senate GOP Policy Committee circulated an energy fact sheet stressing how the Obama administration’s policies have caused gas prices to increase and worsened the country’s dependence on foreign sources of oil.
Individual Senators have also renewed their push for their own energy-related bills.
Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said the sudden spike made it imperative that drilling be allowed to continue off the Gulf Coast. Permits for deep-water drilling have been restricted since the massive BP oil spill last year.