Longtime Rep. Joe Barton tells Newsmax that the United States could cut the price of gasoline in half in the long term if the federal government permitted more domestic oil drilling.
The Texas Republican, former chairman and current member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also says that while others are concerned about the ongoing problems at Japanese nuclear reactors, he is not worried about a threat to the United States and says American reactors are “the safest in the world.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Rep. Barton was asked — with gasoline now selling for around $4 a gallon — if the United States should increase domestic oil drilling.
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“I do think we should drill domestically,” responds Barton, who was first elected in 1984.
“I think we resume drilling in the outer continental shelf and in the deep Gulf. I think we should drill up in Alaska.
“The potential is there to double our domestic oil production in the next 5 to 10 years. That would take pressure off prices and make us less dependent on foreign oil, and over time that would definitely bring the price of oil down at the pump.
“We don’t have to pay $4 a gallon for gasoline in the United States. Not in the very short term but once we got into production, we could probably cut that in half without any major problems.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe recently pointed out that the United States has the world’s largest reserves of oil, gas, and coal. But the Obama administration remains opposed to domestic drilling. What will it take to change federal policy on drilling, Rep. Barton was asked.
“We just have to keep on educating the American public and getting candidates that will run on a pro-American energy platform,” he tells Newsmax.
“And if they get elected we’ll change our political policies and we’ll adopt policies that increase energy production, growth in the economy, and jobs in America.”
Barton remains a strong supporter of the nuclear energy industry in the United States despite the recent troubles at Japanese reactors. Asked if he is concerned about radiation from those reactors reaching the United States, he responds: “I think there is some slight chance that small levels of radiation, if they are emitted in Japan, could come to the United States.
“But I do not think they would be anywhere at the level that would affect in a negative way the public health of the United States.”
As to the possibility that radioactivity could find its way into the American food supply, Barton observes: “I think the chances of that are very very small.
“So far the containment systems in Japan appear to be generally working and the little radiation that has been released, from what I can tell, is very local in nature. It hasn’t been of an order of magnitude or intensity that it would probably come to the United States.”
American reactors were built back in the 1970s and 1980s, but Barton says he is not worried that their age might compromise their safety.
“Not at all. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is continually reviewing its safety plan for the 100-plus operating civilian nuclear reactors in the United States. And when those plants were put into operation, they were required to have double and triple redundant safety systems.
“So our plants are the safest in the world. They have almost a 100 percent operating record of safety. No one in the United States has become seriously ill or has died because of any kind of accident at a civilian nuclear power plant. That’s a very good record, and we in the Congress and also the administrators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission intend to keep it that way.
“Let’s keep this in perspective,” he adds. “The earthquake that hit Japan is the fifth most powerful that’s ever been recorded” and larger than any quake that has hit the United States.
“This is a serious nuclear incident. There’s no misunderstanding about that. We need to contain it. We need to learn from it.”
On another energy topic, Barton was asked if $40,000-plus electric cars that get 35 miles per battery charge are the answer to our gasoline needs.
“They’re not for the average American family,” he declares.
“They may be if you’re a Hollywood liberal and can afford it and don’t drive too much.”
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