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Upton, Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans Demand Answers from Department of Energy on Rising Energy Prices

SAINT JOSEPH, MICHIGAN – Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, joined his Republican colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm inquiring the specific steps the Department is taking to address sky-high energy prices, supply shortages, and record-breaking inflation. Upton is the top Republican on the Energy Subcommittee and was former Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee from 2010 to 2016.

“When I was Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we fought to make America energy independent with commonsense policies – and we succeeded,” said Rep. Upton. “Now, misguided attempts to shut down pipelines and import oil from foreign countries are causing gas prices to soar and inflation to skyrocket. The Biden Administration must be held to account for their efforts to make our country far more reliant on foreign producers instead of supporting our domestic oil and gas industry that would lower heating bills and gas prices for millions of Americans.”

“Since President Biden took office, the prices of crude oil and many energy commodities have risen to seven-year highs. Retail gasoline prices have increased 80 percent, natural gas prices have increased 274 percent, and propane prices have increased 552 percent over the past year-and-a-half. The energy crisis gripping the nation threatens to reverse the progress made under the prior Administration to allow the U.S. to become energy secure. As you know, the U.S. was a net energy exporter in 2019 for the first time since 1952; however, since March our reliance on foreign crude oil imports has skyrocketed,” said the lawmakers.

The lawmakers continued, “While we understand that global supply chain disruptions and demand shocks related to the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced domestic prices, we are deeply concerned that the Administration’s anti-fossil fuel agenda is significantly contributing to higher bills for American families and businesses. On his first day in office, President Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and imposed a moratorium on fossil energy development on Federal lands and waters. In recent comments, you indicated that DOE could respond to high gasoline prices by releasing emergency oil reserves from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) or reinstate the ban on crude oil exports that Congress repealed on a bipartisan basis in 2015. These actions and statements, combined with the Administration’s goals to increase further environmental regulations and mandate economy-wide net zero greenhouse gas emissions, have a chilling effect on domestic energy infrastructure investments and supplies.”

As former Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton prioritized policies that fostered increased domestic production of oil and gas and helped the United States become a net exporter of oil in 2019 for the first time since 1952. Through a commitment to North American energy production and his work on the committee, Upton has helped lay the foundation to secure a steady supply of affordable and reliable energy, spur job creation and manufacturing in Michigan, and fortify long-term energy security in the United States.

You can read the full letter HERE or below:

Dear Secretary Granholm:

With winter right around the corner, we have serious concerns about rapidly rising energy prices and the negative impact these price increases are having on the U.S. economy, inflation, and household bills. The Department of Energy (DOE) is tasked with promoting the interests of Americans through the provision of an adequate and reliable supply of energy at the lowest reasonable cost. With predictions of a colder than usual winter this year, we want to understand as soon as possible what actions you and the Department are taking to prepare for what could be a perfect storm of a cold winter, high and unaffordable energy prices, and supply disruptions.

Since President Biden took office, the prices of crude oil and many energy commodities have risen to seven-year highs. Retail gasoline prices have increased 80 percent, natural gas prices have increased 274 percent, and propane prices have increased 552 percent over the past year-and-a-half.1 The energy crisis gripping the nation threatens to reverse the progress made under the prior Administration to allow the U.S. to become energy secure. As you know, the U.S. was a net energy exporter in 2019 for the first time since 1952; however, since March our reliance on foreign crude oil imports has skyrocketed.

As Secretary of Energy, your primary responsibility is strengthening and protecting the nation’s energy security. Millions of Americans depend on reliable and affordable supplies of these fossil-based fuels for home heating, electricity, transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture. Additionally, as you know, energy price increases are also passed along in many goods and services, stretching family and household budgets, and exacerbating energy poverty.

While we understand that global supply chain disruptions and demand shocks related to the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced domestic prices, we are deeply concerned that the 1 The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports the weekly average price of regular gasoline has increased from $1.77 per gallon on April 27, 2020 to $3.19 per gallon on October 4, 2021; the price of natural gas has increased from $1.52 per million Btu on June 19, 2020 to $5.68 per million Btu on October 1, 2021; and, the price of propane has increased from $0.23 per gallon on March 27, 2020 to $1.50 per gallon on October 5, 2021. Administration’s anti-fossil fuel agenda is significantly contributing to higher bills for American families and businesses. On his first day in office, President Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and imposed a moratorium on fossil energy development on Federal lands and waters. In recent comments, you indicated that DOE could respond to high gasoline prices by releasing emergency oil reserves from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) or reinstate the ban on crude oil exports that Congress repealed on a bipartisan basis in 2015. These actions and statements, combined with the Administration’s goals to increase further environmental regulations and mandate economy-wide net zero greenhouse gas emissions, have a chilling effect on domestic energy infrastructure investments and supplies.

The pace and trajectory of domestic energy price increases presents serious threats to the health, safety, and welfare of Americans and requires urgent attention. Pursuant to the Department of Energy Organization Act (P.L. 95-91), the Secretary of Energy is required to implement a coordinated national energy policy to address short-, mid- and long-term energy problems. The Secretary is also responsible for the gathering, analysis, and dissemination of energy information to inform policies that could affect energy supply and prices.

In light of your responsibilities, and to assist with our own assessment of the emerging impacts of higher energy prices, we ask that you respond to the following by October 21, 2021:

        1. Please describe what specific actions DOE is currently taking, or planning to take in the immediate future, to address energy prices and supply shortages ahead of the upcoming winter.

                a. While the Administration has called on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia to boost oil production, what steps is DOE taking to increase U.S. oil production?

                b. In recent comments, you indicated DOE was considering a release from the SPR or imposing a ban on crude oil exports to respond to rising energy prices. Under current law, only the President may authorize these actions in an emergency. 2 Please describe the legal authorities and policy justification supporting DOE’s consideration of an SPR release and a crude oil export ban.

         2. Please provide DOE’s current analysis and projections for residential and commercial electricity and fuel prices for the upcoming winter months.

        3. Please provide an assessment of recent Executive Actions, Federal policies, and any regulations that may be causing or contributing to energy price increases.

        4. Please provide to the Committee monthly updates forecasting, in six- and twelve-month increments, the best available information on residential energy price trends, rate impacts on low-income households, and DOE actions to mitigate energy price increases. Include in your forecasts:

                
a. Projections using currently enacted policies as a reference case;

                b. Impacts on reference case projections by proposed Federal and legislative polices, including international climate commitments submitted by the U.S.; and

                c. Actions you are taking to identify and address energy supply and other economic and regulatory factors affecting the price trends.

You may have your staff work with Mary Martin or Brandon Mooney of the Republican Committee staff on the details of this request. We appreciate your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

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