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House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings on why gas is so high now

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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HH: Pleased to welcome back Congressman Doc Hastings. He’s chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources in the United States House of Representative. He’s from the 4th Congressional district in Washington State. Chairman Hastings, welcome. It’s great to have you.

DH: Well, thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate it.

HH: I’m a little stunned, though. I paid $4.12 a gallon for gas today.

DH: Well…

HH: Can I blame you?

DH: No. I will tell you who you should blame on this, really. And obviously, this sounds very partisan, but it’s the Obama administration. And the reason I say that is because we have tremendous resources here within our country. And of course, as we know, energy jobs are good paying jobs. So if for no other reason, we should do it for that reason. But this administration has essentially locked up federal development on federal lands, and with the de facto moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico, has essentially locked up that area, including the Outer Continental Shelf. Now the reason I put that all together is because of the unrest in the Middle East, and the fact that we import more than half of our crude oil. Obviously, we’re going to have high gas prices. And it’s these policies that are going to prolong that unless we start utilizing the resources we have right now.

HH: Now Doc Hastings, I listened to President Obama last Friday, looked the camera in the eye and said people who say I’ve shut down production, that’s just not true. That’s false.

DH: That is absolutely false, because he’s not telling the whole story. Yes, production is up, but not because of his policies. It’s because of the policies of the previous administration. There is a lag time from the permitting to the development of those wells. And the fact of the matter is the Bush administration was pretty aggressive on that. And so this administration is seeing the results of that. It’s not because of his policies. In addition to that, private land, particularly in North Dakota, has the production up there has increased tremendously. He had nothing to do with that. In fact, if you look at his policies that he is putting in place as I described just a moment ago, and extrapolate that to the future, we’re going to have less production in the future. And I don’t know what he will say then. But he was absolutely wrong when he said that. Or he didn’t tell the whole story, I should say.

HH: Has your committee invited Secretary Salazar yet up to talk about the de facto moratorium they have underway in the Gulf of Mexico?

DH: We had Secretary Salazar in front of our committee on the budget issue. That issue was obviously discussed. And to be honest with you, he repeated essentially what the President had said. He obviously got that from Secretary Salazar. But today, we had a hearing on the de facto moratorium, particularly as it relates to those people that are affected in the Gulf Coast. And we heard from local people. And there’s no question that there is a de facto moratorium, because those that are involved in the oil industry, all of the associated industries that support drilling in the Gulf, people are being laid off. There are thousands of jobs that have been lost, and those jobs are going to foreign countries like Africa and South America. The danger and the worry, and I think it’s very legitimate, is are those jobs going to come back here again, because these rigs, you know, it cost a million dollars a day in some cases in order to keep them operational. And if they’re not making money, they’re going to go someplace else. And that’s the danger.

HH: Now Doc Hastings, I’d like to turn, while I’ve got you for a couple more minutes as well, to the continuing resolution vote yesterday. I know you voted for it. Big debate – my audience hates that. They hate these extensions. They’re mad at the Speaker, they’re mad at the Leader, they’re mad at the Whip. They’re mad at everyone who voted for it. But you know, that’s a debate. What I can’t believe is that some Republicans went to Politico today and started blasting conservatives who were upset over the spending. Do they not know that’s just enraging the base?

DH: Well, listen. Let’s understand what the C.R. is, and I know that it’s complicated. But we are cleaning up the mess that the Democrat majority left us in, because last year, the federal government did not have a budget. Now just think about that. The federal government did not have a budget. The smallest taxing district has a budget. And yet the largest taxing district, if you will, in the country, the federal government, did not. So we’re cleaning these things up, and the best that we can do because the Senate has yet to participate in this debate…and so what we are trying, and every time we do these short-term C.R., which I hate, too, we are in fact cutting real dollars spending this year. That’s something that hasn’t happened in the past. But keep in mind, we are cleaning up a mess that we inherited because of the irresponsibility, spending irresponsibility, of the Democrats in the last Congress.

HH: Now Doc, I just don’t believe that the $8 billion allegedly cut is real money. I think that’s paper cuts, I think that’s talking points. And I don’t want to be disrespectful. I appreciate you coming in. What I want to know is do you think we’re done with this? Will you vote for another C.R? Because I think the Republicans who vote for one more C.R. are going to lose massive amounts of support, Tea Party support, conservative activist support. I think they’re done with the Republicans if you guys avoid the fight again.

DH: Well, I think that we, what has happened is, this is going to be the last C.R. We’re getting some encouraging signs from the Senate that they’re willing to sit down and negotiate. And that was precisely why we did these C.R.’s. Listen, I didn’t, I voted for these simply because we have to keep the government open. I don’t think there’s any benefit in closing down the government. But what the American people want is spending cuts. And we are keeping that promise.

HH: I don’t think there’s any damage to shutting down the Department of the Interior, to tell you the truth. They’re not issuing permits anyway. But let me ask you, Doc Hastings, last questions. Will there be restrictions on Planned Parenthood funding and on Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

DH: Yes, I support that, and that is part of, if you recall, that is the biggest part of the long-term C.R. that we passed.

HH: And so you’re going to, that’s a non-negotiable? That’s going to be in the final C.R?

DH: That, our leaders are absolutely committed to that, as am I committed to that.

HH: You know, Doc, you’ve done more to communicate the Republicans’ position better than the rest of them have in the last three weeks, so they ought to keep you out there on the air. I appreciate it very much, Mr. Chairman. Good luck in getting the oil going out of the Gulf, because I do not want to talk to you next time and pay $5 dollars. Is that where we’re going, Doc, $5 bucks a gallon?

DH: Hugh, there are people that are making, you know, suggestions…I don’t know. I hope that we can become more energy independent. That’s the best policy.

HH: Chairman Doc Hastings of Natural Resources, thank you.

End of interview.

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