As gasoline prices near a record high, the U.S. Senate rejected a plan Wednesday that would have cleared the way for more off-shore oil drilling. The vote comes days after President Obama ordered a ramp-up in oil production. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, says he voted with the majority to kill the legislation.
“The oil companies have plenty of incentives now to drill, with the high prices and the profits they have,” Harkin says. “They don’t need any more tax incentives. We have 1,830 drilling rigs in operations today, that’s more than we’ve ever had before, including at any time during the George W. Bush administration.”
Harkin was among 52 Democrats and five Republicans who voted down the bill which aimed to speed up the process of issuing off-shore drilling permits, while opening more areas for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia. “I keep saying that we’re being so short-sighted in this,” Harkin says.
“They want to go offshore. Well, haven’t we learned anything from the BP accident? I just think that’s just something we don’t want to do.” Harkin says more money needs to be invested in renewable fuels, not increased petroleum production.
Harkin suggests instead of this bill, they should be considering a permanent wind energy tax credit. He scoffs at calls to cut tax credits on ethanol, the renewable corn-based fuel for which Iowa is the nation’s number-one producer.
“The one thing where we could put a lot of people to work in our country and save more energy and not need to drill for more oil is building retrofit, retrofitting the buildings in America to be more energy efficient,” Harkin says. “That is the cheapest barrel of oil that we can buy right there, and yet we’re not doing it.”
Gasoline prices in Iowa are now averaging $3.90 a gallon, the same as the national average. A year ago, Triple-A-Iowa says the state’s average price was $2.80. The all-time high was set in July of 2008 at $4.02 a gallon.
Ten states are already seeing averages of at least $4.00 a gallon.