Peter DeFazio is a Democrat from Springfield, Oregon who represents Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane and portions of Benton, Jackson, Josephine, Linn and Marion Counties. After retiring from the Air Force in 1971, Peter moved to Oregon where he attended the University of Oregon for a masters degree. Like many people here, once the Northwest moss gets in your blood, there is no other home. He got involved in local government.When he ran for the Congress Peter DeFazio brought a rare personal integrity and an independent and careful consideration of issues. We don't always agree with him but we know he works for the all the people. We are pleased to welcome our member of the US Congress to these pages. Congressman DeFazio recently received an electoral endorsement from his district to continue to do the right thing and fight the good fight.
A Letter from our Representative in Congress
Rep. Peter DeFazio
Oil prices have tripled since the end of 1998, and are higher than they have been in nearly a decade. This has put a squeeze on the already tight budgets of working families and those on fixed-incomes. Some families are forced to make difficult choices between filling the tank and providing necessities. Many Americans, particularly those in rural areas, have no alternatives to transporting their families and goods, long distances, by car or truck. Even in our small cities, driving the kids to school, going to work and running errands, can empty the tank in a few short days. At almost $2.00 a gallon, buying gas has become a serious family budget issue.
Increased oil prices have the potential to bring an abrupt end to this country's economic expansion - an expansion that has yet to bring benefits to many parts of the country. Unfortunately, the response from the Administration and Republican leaders has been weak. The President pleads, "Let the free market work!" and Republicans suggest eliminating the 4.3 cent federal charge on a gallon of gas.
I have news for the President and the Republican leaders in Congress - there is no free market in oil, because the oil conglomerates have openly colluded to drive up prices. Furthermore, cutting the federal gas tax would only hurt American consumers by depleting funds used to fix our nation's highways and provide mass transit. In addition, oil companies would not likely lower prices in response to a gas tax cut, but rather keep the 4.3 cents per gallon for their own profits.
In the absence of productive leadership I have introduced a legislative package to address rising oil prices. My legislation urges the President to file a case with the WTO against OPEC and other oil-producing nations, calls for a reinstatement of the ban on Alaskan oil exports, promotes energy independence through conservation and renewable energy, demands burden-sharing from nations that receive our military and financial support, and ends all foreign aid to OPEC and other price-fixing, oil-producing countries (excluding emergency assistance). These steps are in addition to my ongoing support for a Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department investigation of possible price-fixing behavior by oil companies.
President Clinton and Republican congressional leaders fought for rules-based trade and established the World Trade Organization to enforce those rules. Why not use them? It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the WTO, but a shadow world government does exist, the US is a member of that organization, and contrary to some assertions, WTO rules are enforceable. The WTO prohibits restrictions on the production of materials for export, including oil. Six OPEC countries and two of their partners are full members of the WTO, and are therefore currently in violation of WTO rules. The WTO has already forced the United States to change some of its laws. If we have to live by WTO rules, OPEC nations should be required to as well.
In addition to misguided proposals to cut the federal gas tax by pennies, some congressional leaders want to drill in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Ironically, in 1995, the Republicans pushed through legislation that lifted the ban on exporting oil from Alaska, allowing 60,000 barrels a day (26 million barrels a year) to be shipped to Japan and China. Now, instead of reinstating that ban, they suggest that we tap into ANWR, and destroy that pristine landscape. Let's reinstate the ban on Alaskan oil exports (WTO rules allow export restrictions for products in short supply).
Current oil price increases have reminded us of our over-dependence on foreign oil. Past proposals to address oil shortages and high gas prices have quickly fallen out of favor when prices go down. Now that we are addressing the issue once again we should seize the opportunity to launch long-term initiatives to achieve energy independence. I propose enhancing conservation efforts and increasing investments in alternative and renewable energy sources.
Finally, many OPEC members and oil producing nations enjoy our military and financial support. I suggest that we cease all foreign aid, excluding emergency assistance, and demand that those countries financially share the burden of our assistance.
The US should not sit idly by, while OPEC barons siphon the pocket books of our citizens. We must act now, to save our country from slow growth and recession. My legislation provides immediate and long-term relief and benefits a large number of people. As a world power, we have leverage over the OPEC oil barons - it is time we use that leverage, and it is past time for a serious energy independence strategy here at home.