High fuel prices is the No. 1 issue in Nevada, and Americans are demanding congressional action. Record high gas prices are crippling family budgets, public safety efforts, educational institutions, small businesses, and causing inflation on all manner of products and commodities. Nevada is one of just five states projected to lose more than 10 percent of its airline routes because of the high price of fuel, according to USA Today.
Both Congress and President Bush should take action and use every tool available to lower fuel prices. I have supported and voted for several measures in the House, including legislation addressing price gouging, halting delivery to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and addressing foreign energy cartels. As Nevada is a leader in renewable energy development, I strongly support alternative and renewable fuels, and voted for a renewable portfolio standard. In a number of cases, my support for these bills meant crossing party lines. However, these bills barely scratch the surface of our fuel problems, nor are they a substitution for a realistic and truly comprehensive energy policy.
Frankly, the approach to date has done little or nothing to address the fuel crisis gripping the nation. I am increasingly concerned the issue is becoming a political staring contest in which only consumers continue to be hurt. Since passage of a so-called comprehensive energy bill, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, gas prices have risen more than 8 percent and diesel prices have risen more than 16 percent. Clearly this bill was not the answer to our fuel problems.
Tax increases on fuel are also not the solution to our energy problems. Tax increases that affect oil companies also hurt retirees, seniors and pension funds. In 2004, more than 2,600 pension funds run by federal, state and local governments held almost $64 billion in shares of U.S. oil and natural gas companies. These funds represent the major retirement security for many of the nation's current and retired soldiers, teachers, and police and fire personnel. Fourteen percent of shares are held in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and other personal retirement accounts. Forty five million U.S. households have IRA and other personal retirement accounts.
Consequently, I have voted against billions in tax increases on energy companies in the House, which would only be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. Despite multiple bills with billions in tax increases being put forth in the House, not one of them has passed the Senate. Clearly this approach does not have consensus.
A real energy policy will address the very basic cause of high prices " supply and demand. Congress desperately needs to address refinery expansion, coal to liquid technologies, lifting offshore moratoria, oil shale, and other areas to address skyrocketing fuel prices. Speculation may significantly affect oil prices, and I have sent a letter to the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, on which I sit, to hold hearings on this matter.
Simply put, we cannot conserve, tax, or regulate our way out of this problem. Nor should we beg foreign nations for help. Renewable and alternative sources of energy, which enjoy bipartisan support, are simply not a realistic and cost-effective option today. Reality today is that our nation " now and into the foreseeable immediate future " runs on gasoline, diesel fuel, and petroleum products. Recognizing this reality and doing something is critical to our economy, public safety, and education. Congress should have a real, broad, open and forthright debate to address these issues. The American people are demanding answers and action, Congress should respond accordingly.