POLITICS:

Part politics, part policy, House GOP unveils its energy strategy

Seeking to capitalize politically on escalating fuel prices, House Republicans today unveiled the American Energy Initiative, a series of legislative proposals to combat U.S. EPA and the Obama administration, which they say are stifling energy production and are responsible for the higher prices.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the initiative would lower gasoline prices and create new jobs.

The message onslaught came on the same day that the House Energy and Power Subcommittee passed out to the full Energy and Commerce Committee the "Energy Tax Prevention Act," which would prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions (see related story). It also coincided with the release of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study on stalled energy projects (see related story).

Boehner said Republicans will "work to stop government policies that are driving up the price of gasoline, expand American energy production to lower costs and create jobs and promote our all-of-the-above strategy to increase all forms of American energy."

He also pledged that House Republicans will work with governors and state officials to help them increase energy production in their own states.

"Just as with jobs, the American people recognize that Washington has been a big part of the problem when it comes to the price of energy," Boehner said."The Obama administration has consistently blocked American energy production that would lower costs and create new jobs. They've canceled leases for new exploration, jeopardized new nuclear energy and imposed a de facto drilling moratorium. They've even pushed a cap-and-trade national energy tax that the president himself admitted would cause energy costs to 'skyrocket.'"

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the Energy and Commerce chairman, said, "We have seen in the last two years since President Obama was elected, gas prices have gone up double."

To combat that, he spoke about the bill that his subcommittee just passed that "blocks the EPA from driving fuel prices even higher. We are not going to let this administration regulate what they have failed to legislate." Upton said the committee will mark up the bill next week.

The Republicans said they would focus streamlining the permitting process, opening up the Keystone pipeline access to Canada and reopening the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling.

Republicans plan to offer bills that deal with specific issues, Boehner said. "The days of comprehensive bills, I think, should be over. I would rather deal with this in what I would call bite-size chunks," he said. "Why wouldn't we do a nuclear energy bill, for example, by itself? I think it is a more logical and thoughtful way to deal with these issues."

As to when the legislation will move to the floor, Boehner said he would leave that up to the committee chairmen. Upton said his committee has begun hearings and is intending to do a full review of multiple issues. For instance, he mentioned the timeline it takes for the United States to build nuclear reactors and why it takes the country so much longer to build reactors in comparison to other countries.

Democrats quickly hit back.

"Their plan is not an all-of-the-above strategy. It is an oil-above-all strategy," Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, said this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) took to the Senate floor earlier today to say that having just come back from the Middle East, he blames the energy supply problem on the Obama administration.

"I know the problems that are over there, and a lot of people are saying that the gas prices that are going up are a result partially of what's happening over there," said Inhofe, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "That isn't the real problem. The real problem is a political problem."

"My message today simply is the higher gas prices are simply a product of this administration's goal," he said pointing to Energy Secretary Steven Chu's statement that the United States needs to boost gasoline prices to European levels to spur change in attitudes.

Reporter Katie Howell contributed.

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