By Chanil De Silva
November 12, 2015 at 5:00 am ET
A disappointing couple of days on the Hill this week, with two key proposals being struck down in the House. While not a lot of publicity has been given to these affairs, they carry extremely negative repercussions for the American people and the economy at large. What is alarming is the attention of the American people is being diverted away from fundamentally important issues such as these, which can drastically affect their everyday lives.
The first was an amendment to the Highway bill brought by Rep. Blumenauer, which would see the gas tax almost double. The gas tax has traditionally been the main source of funding for transportation projects in America; however, the tax, which has not changed since 1993 and remains at 18.4 cents, simply cannot keep up with the country’s growing needs. This has resulted in crumbling infrastructure across the U.S while other countries focus on modernizing and improving their own infrastructure. In 2013, The World Economic Forum ranked America 25th in the world for infrastructure quality, behind countries such as the UAE, Oman, South Korea and Saudi Arabia; A bitter taste of reality.
The government currently spends almost $50Bn on transportation projects annually, while the gas tax brings in $34Bn. Lawmakers have been searching far and wide for methods to close this gap and increase funding but have had to settle for short-term patches to get through at the expense of the American people. Although much jubilation occurred over the passing of the 6-year Highway Bill today, it is simply just another patch.
Gas prices across America have been at their lowest in years, which creates the perfect atmosphere for an increase in the gas tax. Even with a substantial increase in tax, lawmakers can still keep gas prices lower than last year due to current market conditions. A simple solution to a complex issue; unfortunately clouded by political polarization and bickering.
Oil Export Ban
The second amendment which was struck down related to repealing the oil export ban. Proponents of energy exports attempted to include it in the Highway Bill to no avail. They will now have to once again search the Hill for a method to push the repeal through.
The oil export ban was enacted in 1975, in response to the OPEC embargo against the U.S for supporting Israel. A lot has changed in the world since 1975, among which the major shift is that America is now self-sufficient in terms of energy with a enough to spare.
A change in the political landscape of the Middle East combined with increased oil supplies due to fracking technology in the U.S have drastically changed the world energy balance. The oil industry has been suffering a down turn within the last couple of years due to declining oil prices which has dampened the American economy and cost the jobs of thousands of blue-collar American workers. At the same time, due to unrest in the Middle East and aggression from Russia, the European region has begun the search for alternate sources of energy to decrease price and supply volatility.
This combination of events provides the ultimate setting for resumed American oil exports to the world. It would potentially increase American GDP, decrease unemployment, pump more money into the economy and also provide energy security to one of our closest allies, the European Union.
Points to Ponder
What should be considered here is not the importance of these two amendments alone but the two critical causes they represent. The state of America’s infrastructure and the benefits of exporting American energy have infinite benefits, which have the potential to not only impact the current state of the economy and quality of life but set standards and an important foundation for generations to come, setting America back on track to lead the world in a more holistic manner.
At a time when the bipartisan budget deal includes provisions to start selling off America’s strategic petroleum reserves in order to fill funding shortfalls, surely, less desperate measures such as the two highlight above can and should be considered.
The author currently serves as Director of Public Policy at Nouveau Inc. An energy & infrastructure consulting firm based in Washington D.C. He holds a MA in Comparative Politics with a special focus on American Politics from Miami University. He also earned his BA from Miami University in Diplomacy and Global Politics, specializing in Europe and the Middle East with a focus on conflict resolution and a minor in Management. His interests lie in corporate diplomacy, governmental relations and project management, specifically related to fields of energy, infrastructure, defense and natural resources.
The opinions and conclusions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Nouveau Inc. or any of its subsidiaries. Questions or comments can be directed to the author via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org