Brown Calls on Energy Secretary to Heed Lessons Learned from Summer '08 Driving Season

Brown Points to 15 Percent Increase in Ohio Gas Prices this Month and Urges Energy Department to Determine Reasons for Last Summer's Spike

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today to urge the department to prepare for the summer driving season. Brown emphasized the need to evaluate what caused the spike in gasoline prices in summer 2008 that had devastating effects on the economy.

“As America enters the summer driving season, the administration must act to ensure that gas prices remain affordable,” Brown wrote today in a letter to Secretary Chu. “Our nation’s economy cannot afford what happened last year when prices spiked to record levels.”

“As you work with Congress to develop and implement plans to keep gasoline prices lower this summer, it is vital that you determine the reasons for last year’s price spikes and the gradual increase of prices generally since 2004,” Brown continued in his letter. “While prices are significantly lower today than they were last year, they have still increased by more than thirty-five cents since the beginning of this month in Ohio—about a 15% increase in just two weeks.  We cannot afford to have prices soar again and jeopardize our efforts to get our economy moving.”
 
A full copy of Brown’s letter can be found below.

May 15, 2009

The Honorable Steven Chu
Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As America enters the summer driving season, the Administration must act to ensure that gas prices remain affordable.  Our nation’s economy cannot afford what happened last year when prices spiked to record levels.  As the economy slowed, high gas prices were not only disastrous for consumers, but for industries already struggling to maintain their financial footing.
 
I heard from thousands of Ohioans as gas prices rose to more than $4 per gallon.  Farmers faced bankruptcy and factory owners contemplated shutting down.  School systems considered four day weeks and families cut back dramatically on summer travel, which only exacerbated Ohio’s economic slowdown.
 
From ending rampant speculation, utilizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, stopping excessive profit taking by energy conglomerates and speculators to fixing the season blend price increases, we have options to combat short-term price fluctuations.  However, the most important step we can take is to secure energy independence by promoting the growth of a robust alternative energy industry in the US.  We cannot drill our way out of dependence on foreign energy sources; we make use of our sophisticated research and development and manufacturing capabilities, our highly skilled workforce, and our unrivaled entrepreneurial spirit to wrest control of our nation’s energy future from foreign, oil-producing nations.

Past Congressional efforts to address high gas prices have been stymied, in part, by the lack of consensus on what caused them.  As you work with Congress to develop and implement plans to keep gasoline prices lower this summer, it is vital that you determine the reasons for last year’s price spikes and the gradual increase of prices generally since 2004. 

While prices are significantly lower today than they were last year, they have still increased by more than thirty-five cents since the beginning of this month in Ohio—about a 15% increase in just two weeks.  We cannot afford to have prices soar again and jeopardize our efforts to get our economy moving.  Your continued leadership is needed to help Congress and the President establish a plan that will prevent severe energy price spikes and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

I look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

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