Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) was in Yankton March 12, 2012, to speak with area government and business officials about the impact of rising gas prices. I made the above short video. (You may have to turn your audio up to hear it.)
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) said Monday that she is worried about the impact of high gas prices on the economy and the lack of federal action to adopt policies that could lower costs.
During a roundtable at the Technical Education Center, Noem met with local representatives of various backgrounds, including agriculture, banking, government, retail and non-profit work, to find out how fuel prices are affecting them. She has been holding similar meetings around the state.
According to a AAA survey released Monday, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. was $3.80, up nearly 50 cents in 2012.
Some of those involved with the roundtable, such as Josh Svatos, general manager of the Regional Technical Education Center, voiced concerns that the climbing gas prices could send the country spiraling back into a recession.
Noem said she believes a consistent federal energy policy could bring gas prices down.
“I think the policymakers have to set a clear American energy policy,” she said. “I think the more certainty we can bring into the fuel market would be very beneficial. If we were approving the Keystone XL pipeline, I think it would have an impact on gas prices. If we could bring in some more resources, know that we’re going to go explore in areas we haven’t before — all of that would bring more certainty, which would make a difference in people’s lives.”
Some at the meeting expressed support for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that would run 1,700 miles from Canada to the Gulf Coast, transporting up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day. Others had lingering questions about the project.
Noem said that approving the pipeline could bring down gas prices “drastically’ overnight.
“I think when you add that kind of certainty that we’re going to have another resource coming into this country, it certainly would have some impact on what prices would be,” she stated.
However, it has been reported by various news outlets that the Keystone XL project would actually raise gas prices.
“The Canadian plan was to use their market power to raise prices in the United States and get more money from consumers,” Philip Verleger, founder of Colorado-based energy consulting firm PK Verleger LLC, told Bloomberg in February.
The pipeline could raise prices as much as 20 cents a gallon in the Midwest, Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, in part because the oil could bypass Midwest refineries and get to a wider market through the Gulf of Mexico, Bloomberg reported.
Noem said Monday that she was unfamiliar with those reports.
“Right now, what we’re facing is that Canada would build a pipeline over to their coast and ship that to China (if Keystone XL is not built), which China would use to be much more efficient in their energy prices and compete with American goods,” she said. “If we could utilize that for ourselves, bring it in here and allow our refineries to work on that oil and create more money for our economy, I think that would be big boon for America.”
Other items Noem would like to see approved are speeding up the permitting process for drilling and opening up federal lands, such as portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Rocky Mountains, to oil exploration.
“We have all these federal lands out there where we know there is oil sitting … but we’re not going after it,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of our resources coming from state and private lands. That’s the concern I’ve had.”
Jake Wipf of the Wolf Creek Hutterite colony located in Hutchinson County, said he believes rising gas prices can be boiled down to greed. Mark Hunhoff of Yankton’s Mark’s Machinery agreed.
“The issue with fuel is, it seems the less we use, the higher it gets,” he said.
As Noem criticized federal inaction on the issue Monday, President Barack Obama spoke with media outlets across the nation to tout a report on energy security accomplishments during his administration. A Washington Post/ABC News poll published Monday found that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is dealing with high gas prices.
The report highlights that domestic oil production has increased each year that Obama has been in office, reaching the highest level since 2003 last year. It also boasts that oil imports as a share of total consumption is at its lowest level since 1995.
Yankton economic development director Mike Dellinger said that a lack of oil use in the U.S. isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“When our economy is not using oil, it’s not growing,” he said. “We say we’re being innovative and conserving, but that’s economic bunk. That’s why there are 14.9 million people on U6 unemployment.”
Noem said that for every penny gas prices go up, $1 billion are pulled out of the economy.
“If you’re talking a 50 percent increase (in gas prices since 2009), there is speculation that is a $70 billion impact, so it compounds as it becomes more and more,” she stated. “People will tell you stories. The more gas prices go (up), the more they make choices with their time, where they’re going to go and how far they’re going to drive.”