Nothing is more urgent or of greater significance to the American people than solving our energy crisis -- it is an issue that hits to the core of family budgets, our economy and our national security. From my travels across this state, it is clear that Minnesotans are united in the belief that any solution to our nation's energy crisis that doesn't produce a single drop more of oil is half-hearted. And rather than staying in session to address the rising cost of fuel, the U.S. Senate simply allowed time to expire to August adjournment without accomplishing a single thing.
The American people sent us here to do a job, and with the gas crisis soon to be accompanied by double-digit percent increases in natural-gas prices, the problem is about to get worse, not better. I believe the most effective way to lower prices is to increase supply while lowering demand -- it's basic economics. The great news is that America is blessed with the tools to affect both supply and demand, if Congress would just act to unlock the nation's energy potential.
We have remarkable domestic oil and natural-gas resources, but unfortunately, much of it is off-limits. Just consider that 85 percent of offshore acreage is currently not available for development. If we developed the entire Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), we could see an additional 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- a significant amount that would make a real dent in our dependence on Mideast oil. The fact is that if the United States were to increase domestic production by just 1 million barrels of oil per day, our dependence on foreign oil would be cut by 9 percent.
However, instead of heeding the cries of our constituents and passing a balanced, comprehensive energy bill with real solutions for this energy crisis, the Senate majority leader brought a take-it-or-leave-it speculation bill to the floor that was more show than substance. It was not an effective solution to speculation, nor did it do anything to increase conservation or production. At its core, speculation is about betting on future scarcity. Along with increasing transparency, we can dampen speculation by convincing the world we are serious about production. To suggest that we can just pass a bill aimed at only one aspect of speculation and then be done with addressing the energy situation is naïve, misleading, and insulting to the basic can-do spirit of Americans.
As a means to passing a comprehensive energy bill, my amendment to open access to the OCS while ramping up research on battery technology for plug-in-hybrid vehicles was offered as a compromise. Not only did Democratic leaders block a vote on my amendment, but they went so far as to object to drilling even if gas were to reach $10 a gallon. How high do prices have to get before producing more becomes a viable option?
Over the last few months, we moved quickly to deal with the effects of the downturn in the economy and housing crisis. How can we allow the energy debate to be bogged down in partisan bickering? I know the objections of Majority Leader Harry Reid do not represent the views of all Democrats -- there are many on the other side of the aisle who do want to utilize America's resources and innovative potential toward a multifaceted solution that includes increasing supply. And most Republicans, likewise, understand that compromises are going to need to be made, for example, by keeping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off the table and making sure we invest in conservation. This spirit of compromise is what allowed us, Republicans and Democrats, to work together to pass the energy bills of 2005 and 2007 -- shouldn't $4 gas make us more, not less, willing to bring all good ideas to the table?
I call on my colleagues, both Republican and Democratic, to develop a sensible, comprehensive solution to this energy crisis. Minnesotans are confused and frustrated about the stalemate in Washington. They deserve action, and I will continue to work with members from both sides of the aisle to achieve this end.
Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is a member of the U.S. Senate.