Rising gas prices and recent events in the Middle East have demonstrated once again the importance of having access to an ample domestic energy supply which is both affordable and reliable. Higher fuel prices increase operating costs for Kansas businesses and are particularly challenging for those living in rural Kansas, who drive long distances each day to work and school.

For the United States to remain competitive in the global market and to meet our country’s energy needs, Congress must develop a comprehensive national energy policy. No single form of energy can provide the answer. To reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, we must develop domestic resources of oil, natural gas and coal; encourage the development of renewable energy sources; and promote conservation.

President Obama recently announced the U.S. Export-Import Bank approved a loan to help Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, explore for oil off its coast. While this decision will help the Brazilian economy develop its domestic energy industry and bring new oil supplies to the world market, we are left to wonder why the president refuses to allow development of our own domestic oil supplies. A recent report from the Congressional Research Service found that our country’s resources are far greater than those of Saudi Arabia, China and Canada combined – in fact, our recoverable oil, natural gas and coal supplies are the largest on the planet.

Yet in 2009, the Obama Administration cancelled 77 oil and gas leases in Utah and last year, suspended 61 leases in Montana. The administration has also restricted access to oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic coast – although these two areas hold commercial oil reserves of 28 billion barrels and up to 142 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. I am concerned these efforts only serve to discourage domestic production, at a time when we need to be focused on long-term energy independence. Last week, I joined 28 Senate colleagues in asking President Obama to review and change regulations that are hampering our energy production.

I also recently joined U.S. Senator David Vitter in introducing legislation, the 3-D Act, to encourage domestic energy production and create jobs. The 3-D Act would force the Obama Administration to re-issue cancelled oil and gas leases; open formerly restricted areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) for oil and gas development in a responsible manner; and streamline the environmental review process to allow for meaningful reviews while also preventing energy development plans from being continuously tied up in court.

In addition to developing domestic resources, we should pursue renewable energy sources, including the production and use of biofuels. Like domestic oil production, these fuels enable our country to be less dependent on foreign countries for energy. Current biofuel production represents nearly 10 percent of our country’s transportation fuel supply, and the next generation of biofuels nearing commercialization holds great potential to expand that percentage. Development of oil and gas resources and the development of renewable energy are not mutually exclusive goals – both should be allowed to move forward. 

Energy exploration must also be accompanied by energy conservation. When Americans drive more efficient vehicles and use energy-conserving buildings, we will consume less energy. In past years, I supported an increase in fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and initiatives to encourage the creation of more energy-efficient buildings and appliances. Congress must continue to look for opportunities to advance practical and cost-effective methods to reduce overall energy usage.

This is an important moment and an important opportunity. As gas prices continue to escalate and political events in the Middle East threaten to disrupt the flow of oil, we must come together to end energy complacency once and for all. Higher energy prices are not only threatening our global competitiveness, they are also hampering our economic recovery. From fossil fuels to renewable resources, I remain committed to developing a comprehensive energy policy that builds on the Kansan spirit of self-reliance, innovation and creativity.