Higher gasoline prices will likely prompt Americans to demand that the federal government provide more access to oil and natural gas reserves onshore and offshore, a former oil industry executive and new member of the U.S. Congress said Sunday. He made his comments to Platts Energy Week television.
U.S. Representative Bill Flores, a Republican from central Texas, compared the situation today, with unusually high gasoline prices, with that in 2008 when U.S. gasoline prices hit $4 per gallon in some areas and public outcry persuaded Congress and the Bush administration to drop government restrictions on offshore drilling.
“You saw a public outcry for improved accessibility to oil and gas properties,” Flores said. “The theme was, ‘Drill here, drill now’. . . I think now that we’re seeing higher prices, the American public is going to say we’ve had enough of the silliness regarding regulatory slowdowns and removing public areas from access.”
Flores retired in 2009 as CEO of Phoenix Exploration, a Houston-based oil and gas company, to run for Congress. He has 30 years of experience in the industry.
The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. increased for the fifth straight week, advancing nearly two cents to $3.07, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a January 5 report. That is 41 cents more than same period last year.
As a member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, Flores will have a say in how the Republican-led House treats Obama administration policies affecting industry access to oil and gas on federal lands and in offshore waters. The administration was planning to invite consideration of drilling in areas off the Atlantic and Alaska coasts where development was banned until 2008, until BP’s Macondo well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, killing 11 workers and resulting in the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Flores, like many of his Republican colleagues and even some Democrats, believes the administration overreacted to the incident with reviews and new regulations that have stalled new drilling in the Gulf. “If you look at the history of the oil and gas business for the last 30 years, prior to Macondo, we had no serious spills,” he said. “That goes to safety, the ability of the industry to operate in a safe manner. The Macondo incident was very unfortunate. I wish it hadn’t happened. But hopefully we can learn from it and go on.” Click here to access the full Flores interview.