July 23, 2008

Texas Senator Visits Waco to Tout Plans to Ease Sky-High Gas Prices

By Tim Woods, Waco Tribune-Herald, Texas

Jul. 22--U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Monday called for Congress to lift domestic oil-drilling bans and restrictions to give Americans relief at the gas pump.

Speaking at the Flying J Travel Plaza at Interstate 35 and New Road, the Texas Republican said loosening restrictions on drilling in the U.S. is a viable short-term option for dropping high gas prices, which stood at $4.07 per gallon of regular unleaded nationally Monday. The price ranged from $3.89 to $3.95 in much of Waco.

Ironically, at the time he was speaking, the lowest price in town was $3.75 at the Flying J.

"Congress needs to become part of the solution and not part of the problem," Cornyn said. "What I mean by that is we need to open up more American oil and gas resources right here at home, so we have to import less from the Middle East."

Cornyn said he backs lifting drilling restrictions on offshore drilling, developing oil shale in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, as well as

opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. Doing so could "produce as many as 3 million additional barrels of oil a day right here at home."

Admitting that lifting bans and restrictions on domestic oil production is a short-term fix, Cornyn said he also backs renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, plus finding clean ways to burn coal, as long-term solutions.

"But in the near term, the best way for us to bring down the price of gasoline is to bring down the price of oil by producing more here in America," he said.

Cornyn said another short-term solution is gas conservation. However, he said he doesn't support lowering the speed limit to 55 mph. Instead, Cornyn said he favors people taking voluntary measures to save gas rather than being compelled by the government.

State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, running against Cornyn for the Senate, said he prefers long-term solutions over lifting drilling bans, though Holly Shulman, his press secretary, said Noriega does support lifting at least some drilling restrictions.

"Texas families are currently feeling the effects of our shortsighted energy policies," Noriega said in response to Cornyn's appearance. "We can't rely on drilling alone to get us out of this crisis. Texas can become a world leader in renewable energy, creating jobs, strengthening the state's economic base and providing a more sustainable future for our state's natural resources and U.S. national security, and that's where our focus should be."

Noriega will release his comprehensive energy plan today in Dallas, Shulman said.

Noriega also opposes compulsory measures, such as lowering the speed limit, to conserve fuel. Shulman said Noriega previously has voted to raise the speed limit.

Waco's Flying J proved an interesting choice for Cornyn's appearance. General manager Rick Newby said gas prices there have dropped 12 cents in the last week. The price dropped 2 cents -- from $3.78 to $3.76 -- shortly before Cornyn arrived.

The comparatively low prices at Flying J sparked long lines at the pumps.

Whitney Farr, of Waco, one of those waiting for gas, said she agrees with Cornyn's stance on lifting drilling and oil production restrictions. The price of gas has sharply altered her day-to-day lifestyle.

"It's certainly reduced my driving," she said. "I try to be more judicious about where I go, and I stay pretty close to 60 (mph) when I'm on the interstate."

Farr added: "It's brutal. It's very difficult, and you have to prioritize what you're going to do."

To fill her pickup truck with gas usually costs about $95, Farr said, so she was happy when Monday's lowered price at Flying J left her with a $91 tab.

"Hey, this is a good day! That's dinner and a movie," she joked, referring to the few dollars she saved.


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