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Deepwater Horizon fire

It's been more than a year since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and covering more than 45,000 square miles of ocean in oil, but Congress has done nothing yet to strengthen laws governing offshore drilling. Click for video of the disaster's aftermath.

More domestic oil drilling will have no effect on the current spike in gasoline prices. U.S. oil production is currently at a ten-year high, while gas prices continue to skyrocket. Last year alone, oil production increased more in the U.S. than in any other country in the world. Production in the Outer Continental Shelf grew by more than a third in the past two years, and production in the Gulf of Mexico brought in 1.6 million barrels of oil per day last year -- an all-time record.

More Drilling is Dangerous and Won't Make a Difference

Projections from the Energy Information Administration indicate that an expansion of offshore drilling wouldn't lower gas prices until 2030, and then by only a few cents per gallon. With only two percent of the world's reserves, the U.S. contribution to the global market could never be high enough to significantly alter world oil prices.

Nonetheless, the House is voting to increase offshore oil drilling and to weaken oversight of drilling operations, using higher gas prices as the pretext. These votes are occurring even though Congress has done literally nothing to strengthen the laws governing offshore drilling since last year's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

We don't need lawmakers to promote reckless drilling that will fail to lower gas prices and endanger our coasts.

Instead of weakening environmental regulations, Congress should be fighting for taxpayers. Oil companies receive billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies even as they are reaping record profits. ExxonMobil alone made nearly $11 billion just in the first quarter of 2011. These companies don't need help from taxpayers, and taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing dirty fuels.

Energy Efficiency is the Real Solution

The most effective way to reduce consumer costs for gasoline and to stop sending oil dollars overseas is to improve energy efficiency. We can invest in more efficient cars and trucks, cleaner fuels, and transportation choices such as commuter rail. By 2030, efficiency and other oil savings measures can save a total of eight times more oil than opening new areas to drilling off America's shores or in sensitive protected areas.

In 2007, Congress voted to improve fuel economy, and President Obama has started moving America down this road: he established standards requiring vehicles to reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Technologies to meet this goal are well known, and strong standards will ensure they come to market.

Building cars that go farther using less gasoline is the best way to protect Americans from price spikes. It will also create jobs, slash our oil imports, and reduce dangerous air pollution. This is the kind of solution we need right now. We don’t need lawmakers to promote reckless drilling that will fail to lower gas prices and endanger our coasts.

It's time to move beyond our dependence on oil and seek alternatives such as clean energy and fuel efficiency. In doing so, we must fight back against Big Oil and the lawmakers so closely tied to their pockets.

last revised 5/17/2011

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