The Democratic congressman from Maine’s 2nd District is calling on President Joe Biden to invoke a national security law and make a commitment to buying oil in order to spur domestic production and bring down high energy prices.
Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, was joined by two Republican congressmen in a letter to Biden on Thursday. The effort comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shocked global markets and driven up U.S. prices, with the average cost of a regular gallon of gas in Maine rising to $4.31 on Thursday, according to AAA. Heating oil prices have also spiked in the past week.
The letter to Biden — signed by Golden and Reps. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota and Jim Baird of Indiana — attempts to meld ideas from across the political spectrum. Calls for increased production have met backlash from environmentalists, who have argued Biden should instead encourage further investment in renewables. But the letter also does not go as far as some Republican appeals for new drilling permits or pipelines.
The trio calls on the Democratic president to make a three-year commitment to purchase domestic oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a move which the trio argue would give companies the confidence to invest in production capacity.
They also ask Biden to use the Defense Production Act, a national security law used during the pandemic to support manufacturing of COVID-19 testing materials and vaccines, to provide financial incentives and help procure equipment so companies can boost oil and gas production. The members also ask Biden to convene a White House meeting with oil and gas executives to discuss other challenges to increasing production.
“Rather than suggesting that these companies may begin to engage in price gouging, you should appeal to their sense of patriotism in this heightened moment of international conflict and use your bully pulpit to encourage them to step up in support of American energy independence and security,” the members wrote.
The letter does not outline immediate action by Congress to address energy prices, although the group wrote they were “ready to work” with Biden if legislation was necessary. Efforts to bar the U.S. from importing Russian oil have received bipartisan backing in Congress, but there has not been similar consensus around legislative measures to address rising prices.
“The president has the authority to spur production in the domestic oil industry, and he can do so much faster than Congress can take action,” said Nick Zeller, a spokesperson for Golden.
High gas prices could have political salience in Maine’s 2nd District later this year. Golden, who represents a district twice won by former President Donald Trump, faces a likely challenge from former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who highlighted high energy prices while delivering his signatures to get on the ballot on Wednesday.
A national conservative group affiliated with former Vice President Mike Pence also launched ads in the district this week tying Golden to Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL project, a planned pipeline that would have brought crude oil from Canada to the U.S. The pipeline would have had little bearing on current gas prices, however, as it was not set to be complete until 2023.