The Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer vacation season, a time when Northern Virginia residents load up their cars to travel to beaches up and down the East coast.
Over the past few weeks, gas prices have continued to rise to a national average of $3.84 a gallon, more than one dollar above this time last year. Not only does this impact those taking long trips this summer, it hits the pocketbooks of the hundreds of thousands who endure long daily commutes in our region.
Many of these commuters receive $230 in monthly parking reimbursements from their employers to offset the cost of garage parking while those who bike, take shuttles, or carpool receive little or no commuting benefits. To shift the emphasis to more environmentally-friendly modes of transport, the Commuter Relief Act, introduced last week, will give employers incentives to offer benefits for alternative modes of transportation.
Recently, in a misguided, ineffectual effort to reduce the price of oil, the Republican-led House of Representatives approved legislation to open up Virginia’s coastline to oil drilling and return to pre-BP oil spill levels of regulation. One year ago, these lax regulations and reckless pursuit of higher oil company profits resulted in 11 deaths, 200 million gallons of oil dumped into the Gulf waters, tens of thousands of marine and aquatic life lost, and a damaged fishing and tourism industry. The Senate is not likely to go along with such a proposal, but Congress should accept the recommendations put forward by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission to make our offshore drilling safer and prevent future disasters.
Looking beyond the BP oil spill, it is clear that the United States cannot drill our way to energy independence. The U.S. holds only two percent of the world’s oil reserves while consuming 22 percent of the global annual supply of oil. We must invest in alternative energy sources to develop any long-term solution to our nation’s energy needs.
Over the past decade, the top five big oil companies have made nearly $1 trillion in profit. I have repeatedly called for an end to the nearly $40 billion in subsidies given to top oil companies each year. Particularly at a time when our nation is still recovering from a recession, giving away billions of dollars to large corporations makes little sense.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology estimates that, on average, 27% of a family’s income goes towards transportation costs. With oil speculators driving up the price of gas rising, this percentage will only increase.
I continue to encourage the hundreds of thousands of commuters to take advantage of the many public transportation options the region has to offer and will continue my efforts in Congress to rein in the long-term price of oil through investment in alternative energies.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.