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Ellsworth sponsors bill to provide relief at the pump

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

WASHINGTON -- In response to 8th District Hoosiers' concerns about skyrocketing prices at the pump, Rep. Brad Ellsworth today announced he is sponsoring legislation to bring them relief. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and Consumer Protection Act would lessen world-wide demand for oil by temporarily suspending shipments to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

"There's no question that record high oil prices are placing heavy financial burdens on Hoosiers, and Congress should consider every option for bringing relief to consumers," said Ellsworth. "Temporarily suspending oil shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an important step toward bringing Hoosiers immediate relief at the pump."

Created in the wake of the 1973-74 oil embargo, the SPR provides the U.S. with an emergency stockpile of crude oil for use during significant disruptions in commercial oil supplies. The SPR consists of a series of underground storage caverns along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast with a storage capacity of 727 million barrels of oil. Currently, it is over 96 percent full with 700.9 million barrels in storage.

The bill would temporarily suspend additional deposits to the reserve for the remainder of 2008 or until the average price of petroleum falls below $50 a barrel for 90 days.

"Unfortunately, with the summer driving season approaching, prices at the pump are only going to rise. Reducing the demand for oil is one way we can try to address the problem before it gets worse," said Ellsworth. "At the same time, we can't afford to be short-sighted about our emergency reserves. But with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at 96 percent capacity, I believe we have adequate reserves in place if severe weather disrupts domestic oil supplies."

Ellsworth also stressed the importance of finding long-term solutions to reduce America's reliance on foreign oil and address fuel prices for the future. Late last year, he supported a historic increase in the fuel economy standard for new cars and trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. This was the first increase since 1975 and, once implemented, could save Hoosier families an average of $700-$1000 per year at the pump. The bipartisan legislation provided flexibility to automakers to ensure the new standard will be reached without jeopardizing American manufacturing jobs and was widely supported by automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp.

In addition, Ellsworth supported cutting $18 billion in tax-payer funded subsidies to the big oil companies and using the money to invest in renewable energy sources instead.

"It's a matter of priorities. It's ridiculous for Congress to give away billions in taxpayer-funded government subsidies to companies that are making billions by charging those same taxpayers outrageous prices at the pump. I think that money can be put to better use by investing in renewable energy," said Ellsworth. "Combined, these long-term policies will put America on the path toward energy independence and ease the burden at the pump."

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