Transcript: Democratic Radio Address

The following is a transcript of Saturday's Democratic radio address, delivered by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

RAHALL: Good morning, I'm Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hardworking Americans across the country continue to experience the crunch of record high gasoline prices. At more than $4 per gallon and rising, we know Americans must have relief at the pumps.

While Democrats in Congress know that we cannot drill our way to energy independence and continue to advocate for the development of renewable fuels and increased energy conservation, we also know that we must increase our supply of oil in the interim.

This week, President Bush and his Republicans allies rallied behind the oil industry's political agenda once again, and advocated opening more of America's federal land, including coastal areas, to drilling.

This proposal will not bring the type of relief Americans deserve at the pump.

Investigations by my Committee have uncovered that over 80 percent of the estimated oil and gas on federal lands are already available for drilling, or will be in the near future, without environmental challenge.

If the oil industry would drill in those areas -- available to them now -- the amount of oil produced represents over 14 years of current U.S. consumption. And over 30 years of domestic natural gas use.

Yet, we also found that Big Oil is more intent on speculating with the public's energy resources. Today, as I speak, the industry is sitting on 68 million acres of federal oil and gas leases already issued to them. That represents an area the size of the state of Colorado.

Big Oil is stockpiling these leases, as they enjoy record profits, while Americans feel the pain at the pump.

It is estimated that 68 million acres of leased land could bring to the market an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil. That would nearly double total U.S. production, and cut oil imports by one-third.

However, President Bush and Senator McCain want to give them even more public resources so that the industry can speculate even further.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are unifying around a bill I introduced along with other Democratic Leaders to end this speculation of the public's energy resources.

Simply put, we are telling Big Oil to use it, or lose it.

Our legislation would compel the industry to drill on those public lands it already controls. They would either have to produce from these lands, show they are being diligent in their development, or give up the right to control even more federal energy resources.

In the next few weeks, Democrats will also propose bills that will close the 'Enron' loophole on petroleum futures trading that will allow more transparency and shine the light on speculators that have driven up the price of oil; punish price gougers; reduce fares for public transit and give consumers an affordable alternative.

The Republican approach to Big Oil has been to coddle them, ever since Vice President Cheney first convened his energy task force in March 2001. Big Oil does not need to be coddled; it needs a kick in the backside.

In response to Big Oil's scheming for more and more acres of public land, House Democrats are saying: You've got 'em; drill 'em.

I'm Congressman Nick Rahall. Thanks again for listening.