Rep. Elton Gallegly (R. Semi Valley)
Here's what the leaders of the congressional Democrats told the American people two years ago to persuade voters to bring them to power:
— "Democrats have a common-sense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices." (Nancy Pelosi, now speaker of the House).
— "Democrats believe that we can do more for the American people who are struggling to deal with high gas prices." (Steny Hoyer, now House majority leader).
— "House Democrats have a plan to help curb rising gas prices." (Jim Clyburn, now House majority whip).
When Pelosi was sworn in as speaker, the national average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.29. As of Monday, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $3.60 — a record high. In California — where you, I and Speaker Pelosi live — a gallon of regular gas hit an average of $4 a gallon in San Francisco on Sunday, with the rest of the state not far behind.
So much for the Democrats' plan.
Gasoline prices are not, and shouldn't be, a partisan issue. They affect all Americans equally. That's because 98 percent of American transportation is fueled by oil. As transportation costs rise, so do costs for food, furniture, medicines, household supplies, clothing — anything that has to be shipped from one point to another.
Together, Democrats and Republicans need to cut our reliance on foreign oil, through conservation, alternative fuels and tapping domestic sources. The U.S. currently imports more than 56 percent of its oil from foreign countries, such as the volatile Middle East and Venezuela. At the current rate of importation and consumption, the U.S. will rely on the rest of the world for 64 percent of its oil needs in 12 years.
Conservation has an immediate impact, but is only part of the solution. Alternative fuels will take time and even then may not fully replace oil for all our energy needs. Therefore, if we are to reduce our reliance on foreign supplies, we must produce more domestic oil.
Flash back 28 years, when President Carter — a proud Democrat — set aside a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for "exploration and development" of oil and natural gas resources. An estimated 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil lies beneath its frozen tundra.
It's important to note that ANWR is not the California coast. There is no tourism industry in ANWR, which lies entirely north of the Arctic Circle. Except for the 220 natives living at Kaktovik, who support oil production, ANWR is desolate. That's important to note from a states' rights perspective. If we are to continue the moratorium on oil extraction off the California coast because it's opposed by most Californians, then we should equally take into consideration the views of Alaskans, who overwhelmingly support oil extraction in their state.
We should also note that the 19 million-acre refuge is more than three times the size of Massachusetts, yet fewer than 2,000 acres of the Coastal Plain would be impacted by oil production.
Note, too, that moving oil from Alaska is less risky than shipping it halfway around the world in a rusty Panamanian tanker.
A small impact on a barren piece of Alaska where the people support oil production would have a large impact on our nation's energy supply. Yet, nearly 30 years after a Democratic president opened the area, congressional Democrats are blocking it.
Opening ANWR needs to become part of the energy plan if America is to realize any relief.
In the meantime, another short-term solution would be for California to lower the sales tax on gasoline.
The 6 percent California sales tax on a gallon of gas when Pelosi became House speaker yielded the state about 13 cents per gallon. Today, the state receives more than 21 cents in sales taxes per gallon, a 62 percent windfall in 15 months. I should note that the sales tax is based on the cost of gasoline, plus the added federal and state excise taxes. Basically, the sales tax includes taxes on taxes. Furthermore, Elizabeth Hill, California's legislative analyst, wants to increase California's excise tax by 10 cents and make it a percentage of the cost of gasoline, thereby exponentially increasing the taxation on taxes.
Raising gas taxes is not the way to ease the state's deficit. More likely — because transportation costs affect every aspect of the economy — higher gas taxes will further weaken the economy and worsen the state's deficit.
Instead, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should cut the sales tax on gasoline while long-term solutions, such as opening ANWR and fully implementing workable alternative energies, are achieved.
Californians shouldn't be gouged by a government that is reaping a windfall on its sales tax or a Congress that won't increase supplies.
— Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, represents the 24th Congressional District.