With the debt ceiling debate looming over Capitol Hill, I decided to ask Senator John Barrassso (R-WY) about the fiscal challenges facing the country including not only the ever rising deficit but energy prices as well.
LL: I have been speaking with a lot of CEOs as well as energy analysts who are telling me the budget backlash going on right now is one of the drivers in the increase in the price of oil because investors are dumping the dollar and going into commodities. Do you think Congress is to be part of the blame for the rise in gasoline prices?
Senator Barrasso: The longer Washington waits to address the spending issue, the more uncertainty we’ll have in the markets. We need to stop spending money we don’t have and get America’s fiscal house in order.
Additionally, the President’s policies are making the pain at the pump worse. Instead of taking action to increase American energy production, this administration has shut down projects and locked up a vast supply of our energy reserves. It’s time for the Administration and Congress to take the right steps to support all of the above energy development in our country.
LL: Would you like to see a balanced budget constitutional amendment attached to the debt ceiling vote?
Senator Barrasso: Yes. It is time that we passed a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Many states have to balance their budgets. Families have to balance their budgets, live within their means. Washington needs to do the same.
It's also time for us to place actual, legal limits on what we do spend. A statutory limit on total government spending will force Washington to make the hard decisions each year to get us back on track. A hard cap on government spending will start us on the path toward fiscal balance and sustained growth.
LL: Analysts say $4 gas on a national basis is the equivalent of taking $85 billion out of the economy. Do you fear this could derail the country's economic recovery?
Senator Barrasso: Yes—American families are expected to pay over $800 more this year in gas prices. The pain at the pump is taking away money that families need for other bills and activities.
Washington needs to increase American energy development and help the private sector create more red, white and blue jobs across the country.
LL: Sources tell me they are increasing frustrated with the rhetoric coming out of the Obama Administration in regards to energy saying their words and actions are not only contradicting each other but they truly believe the President wants to kill the oil industry. What do you think?
Senator Barrasso: Since coming into office, this President has pursued a say one thing, do another energy policy. He says he supports American oil and gas exploration, but then his Administration continues to roll out red tape that makes it harder for companies to produce American energy.
The situation in the Gulf, in Alaska and on public lands in the West are perfect examples. Instead of simply delivering speeches, the President should encourage all of the above American energy production and help the private sector create more jobs.”
LL: Fracking is a big jobs generator in our nation with Continental Resources (CLR) now having a total of 18,000 jobs openings. What is needed to educate Washington on this form of energy exploration?
Senator Barrasso: My home state of Wyoming currently ranks second in the country in natural gas production—and we do it in an environmentally responsible way. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I speak regularly about how Wyoming is a leader in ensuring that the appropriate safeguards are in place for drilling and for hydraulic fracturing.
Most of America’s oil and gas production is dependent on hydraulic fracturing. Without it, America’s vast energy resources will remain locked away and we will become increasingly dependent on foreign energy.
Too often science and facts are missing from the fracking discussion.
I will continue pushing for an informed discussion. Members, industry and the public can all play an important role in this process.
LL: Some economists say the price of gasoline could also impact jobs for the fact people will not be able to afford to drive around in search of applying for positions. Are you worried on the impact of the high price of gas on job creation?
Senator Barrasso: Yes. The more money small business owners spend on gasoline, the less money they have to pay their current employees and hire new workers. Washington needs to encourage all of the above American energy production and help the private sector create more jobs.
LL: For years Congress has been able talking about putting together a "comprehensive energy policy". When I was in D.C. recently and spoke with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), she told methe "time is now" for Congress to come together on this.
Are you confident that both sides can really sit down and negotiate a plan?
Senator Barrasso: Leaders on both sides of the aisle need to come together to encourage all of the above energy production in our country. We need green jobs—but we also need red, white and blue jobs. As a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees, I am dedicated to working with my colleagues to develop a national energy policy that will decrease our dependence on foreign oil and help the private sector create more jobs.
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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."