It is being reported that the United States East Coast faces gasoline shortages and high prices because by July, almost half of the refineries serving the East Coast will be offline. New and additional refineries would cut down on supply shortages when refineries are shut down for storms, maintenance, repairs or compliance with new EPA regulations. Presumably they would create jobs in construction and a lack of shortages or price fluctuation would be good for the economy overall.
Congressman Langevin has generally voted against new oil refineries, which make crude oil into gasoline and diesel. As the price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Rhode Island breaks the $3.80 mark, it’s a good time to think about your congressman’s positions on gasoline and oil in general. Is he helping you or hurting you?
Of course, some say speculators are causing recent gas price increases. Whatever you may think of speculators, they are a barometer of the marketplace and also of government policy that affects that marketplace. Outlawing or resenting speculators or making speculation more transparent doesn’t really change that. The price will still reflect current supply, future supply and demand. No supply or a delayed supply, or risks to supply all translate through the market into higher prices. Inadequate or offline refinement capacity jeopardizes the supply of gasoline and raises the price. With much of our refinement capacity serving the East Coast offline this summer, we may soon see even higher prices and, perhaps even, shortages.
So let’s look at some of Congressman Langevin’s votes on energy. According to “OntheIssues.Org,” Langevin:
Voted YES on keeping moratorium on drilling for oil offshore.
Voted NO on opening Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling.
Voted NO on scheduling permitting for new oil refineries.
Voted NO on authorizing construction of new oil refineries.
Voted YES on removing oil and gas exploration subsidies.
Voted NO on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy.
Voted YES on prohibiting oil drilling and development in ANWR.
Congressman Langevin’s votes look discouraging of the development and production of domestic oil and gas supplies. While one can appreciate and respect the need to protect our shores and our wilderness and habitat reserves, supporting newer refineries could incorporate updates to reduce pollution, improve safety and perhaps more efficiently assure adequate supply. Presumably, construction of new refineries would create jobs on a large scale and represent an improvement of our energy infrastructure. What’s wrong from the point view of a Rhode Islander with allowing new refineries? As one who has installed numerous energy star bulbs, fixtures, windows and appliances, a white energy star roof and drives a four-cylinder station wagon I use like a truck, I am all about conservation and spending my own money in pursuit of the returns from future efficiency.
I am much more guarded about the new technologies that the president and Congressman Langevin have put ahead of our need for affordable, stable gasoline prices. Alternative energy technologies are still young and expensive, awkward and not all that efficient, potent or reliable. From my small business, I have learned that patience is often rewarded in better and cheaper, more efficient and more potent technology developed at the expense of the less patient and over-eager. Moreover, if we have to make one group pay the cost of alternative energy for another group, that should be the end of it right there unless we all clearly benefit with lower cost energy. So why not allow our gasoline infrastructure to improve? Moreover, as the world economy expands, we are actually exporting gasoline, which may be a good thing, especially if we make money and make it cleanly.
Realistically, neither we nor the rest of the world have replaced the internal combustion engine, with or without hybrid enhancements, as the best way to move a vehicle around, so we need newer refineries to help keep gasoline and diesel prices as low as and stable as possible. Stable gas prices will support a recovery and a recovery will support further innovation and upgrades in housing, vehicles, manufacture and utilities that will naturally move us toward less pollution and more efficiency. Higher gas prices are an obstacle to recovery and therefore also a major obstacle to new investment in more efficient and cleaner technologies and methods in all forms of energy consumption.
The people of the Second Congressional District are not well served by the policies of President Obama and Congressman Langevin. Even if the Obama administration somehow talks down the price of gasoline through Nov. 6, or world and domestic economic data is so poor it discourages the speculators, or the Saudis help out by ramping up production of oil, the failure to build new refineries, and Congressman Langevin’s votes against domestic oil and gasoline production, is hurting Rhode Island and the nation at a bad time and it could get worse.
Michael J. Gardiner is a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Rhode Island's Second Congressional District.