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Rep. Charles Boustany: The Obama Administration Is Holding American Energy Producers Hostage

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For Louisiana Congressman Rep. Charles Boustany, M.D. is was a big week.

First, the Administration issued its first new drilling permit since the unofficial drilling moratorium was put in place. And at the end of the week, Medicare fraud was addressed in a hearing in Congress.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is testifying on the Hill about the HHS budget and the implementation of the new law. I decided to catch up with Representative Boustany to discuss these two issues.

LL: The Obama Administration issued its first new drilling permit Monday. Do you think rising crude prices forced the Administration's hand?

Rep. Boustany: The Obama Administration has held American energy production hostage for months with the defacto ban on drilling. The permit issued Monday was for a rig halted in May with the initial moratorium, so it's not technically a new permit.

The President and Secretary Salazar will have to show more action than just this if I am to believe they are serious about getting Gulf Coast residents back to work. The lack of production in our own waters is being felt now in light of the crisis in the Middle East. We need to get back to work, but this one permit is a drop in the bucket in terms of what needs to be done by this Administration.

LL: How is the local economy doing down there since the unofficial moratorium?

Rep. Boustany: The local economy was definitely hurt by the work stoppage in the Gulf. Louisianans are resilient, and have proven their determination in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and have shown the same spirit throughout the moratorium and permitorium.

I organized a roundtable with several oilfield service companies and energy producers, many of them small businesses of just a handful of people, directly impacted by the moratorium.

In most cases, these companies have been able to hold off massive layoffs, but many workers have seen their hours slashed dramatically or have been relocated to areas where they can work. The Interior Department has shown its determination to cripple the industry with lengthy delays in the permitting process. I have been vocal in my opposition to these actions, and I will press on until our energy producers are back in business.

LL: How long will it take the industry to get back on its feet?

Rep. Boustany: America’s energy producers can get back to normal production quickly if the Administration gets out of the way and eliminates the bureaucratic hurdles. In the long-term, we don’t have an energy strategy that makes full use of the oil we have and the enormous natural gas reserves we need to develop.

Green energy or new energy is a laudable goal but it still requires a technological leap to make it wide-scale and economical. We need to get our producers back in the field, utilizing the natural resources we have in our own backyard, rather than depending on foreign oil to prop us up or waiting for energy sources that don't yet exist.

LL: Health Care Fraud is a big issue and it was the topic of the Ways and Means hearing Thursday. How many billions are lost each year and can this be stopped?

Rep. Boustany: Health care fraud isn’t just about the individuals committing fraud, it’s about the patients and health care providers hurt by it. Health care spending accounts for one-sixth of the nation’s economy.

Professor Malcolm Sparrow of the Kennedy School at Harvard suggests the number could range in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year, while the FBI estimates that between three and ten percent of all spending is fraudulent—roughly $250 billion each year. This is an astronomical number, and we need to put a stop to taxpayer waste of this magnitude. I will work with my colleagues for sensible solutions to remedy this, and our hearing yesterday went a long way to getting those answers.

LL: Will health care reform further exploit this?

Rep. Boustany: The health care law included some new anti-fraud provisions, but one can’t ignore the host of new health care spending programs the new law created. The CBO estimates those new programs will cost $940 billion over the next ten years, while the act’s anti-fraud provisions will save only $5.8 billion over that same period. That amounts to only 1% of the expected Medicare fraud levels in that same amount of time.

A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."

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