Even so, why aren't the oil and gas companies producing on the millions of acres they already control? As you and I pay $4 a gallon, oil and gas companies are making record profits, receiving federal tax breaks and giving their executives salaries of tens of millions of dollars.
Given this, it is hard to believe that the oil companies are not taking advantage of consumers.
Providing oil and gas companies with more land to drill on is often seen as the cure-all for our energy problems. The fact is, however, oil and gas companies are choosing to drill on only about a quarter of the 68 million acres (bigger than the size of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia combined) already leased to them by the federal government.
Even though these companies have 81 percent of all the known reserves in the United States, they refuse to extract the oil and natural gas they already control.
The Responsible Ownership of Public Lands Act would compel oil companies to produce on the millions of acres they already control. They either drill on the land already leased to them by the federal government, putting millions more barrels of oil on the market, or pay a per-acre fee that goes back to taxpayers.
While the solution to the oil problem is complicated, there is plenty of room for the oil companies to do more drilling on accessible property without opening up more federal land.
Some of my colleagues want to give oil companies more land, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, for drilling, but I do not think the solution is to give them more acreage to drill for resources they can already access.
Even if additional public lands were opened up for offshore drilling of oil, it would have little, if any, immediate impact on the price of gas. In fact, a 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that opening up offshore drilling "would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before the year 2030."
Congress has recently taken a number of steps to counter rising gas prices. We suspended new deliveries of crude oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, passed a law to protect consumers against price gouging during energy emergencies and authorized the Department of Justice to take legal action against the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries if its members conspire to artificially set the price of oil.
It is important, however, for us to realize that short-term fixes are not the solution to our long-term energy problem. In the last 18 months, Congress has passed more legislation encouraging energy efficiency and the development of homegrown biofuels - such as wind, solar and geothermal - than any other Congress. The best way toward energy security and economic stability is to invest in new, green technology and clean, domestic, renewable fuels that, over time, will reduce our reliance on oil.
Each of us has a responsibility to secure our energy future - oil companies, Congress and American consumers alike. We need to end the partisan finger-pointing and take action. It is time to protect the future of central Kentucky families, not the future of oil companies.
Congressman Ben Chandler, D-Ky., represents the 6th District, which includes Clark County and most of central Kentucky.