Utah Rep. John Curtis said Tuesday that it is in America’s best interest to produce oil and gas domestically.
“We don’t have to sacrifice energy independence. We don’t have to sacrifice higher prices. We don’t have to sacrifice our economy. And we can still lower emissions, all of those things, they’re not mutually exclusive,” Curtis said of U.S. energy policy.
His remarks were part of an event Tuesday hosted by Americans For Prosperity — a national, conservative political advocacy group — at All About Food and Fuel, a gas station and convenience store that was offering unleaded gas for $2.38 per gallon, the national average for fuel in January 2021, according to AFP.
The average price for a regular gallon of gas in Utah on Tuesday was $4.91, according to AAA.
If the U.S. was to reach energy independence, Curtis said, it would be important to ensure major oil companies have access, and the opportunity to invest, in public lands.
Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative said denying companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron the capital to fund domestic production of oil and natural gas, “sent signals to the market that, ‘If you invest in this, it’s not going to be long term, we’re going to close you down.’”
He encouraged Republican and Democratic members of Congress to work together on energy policy, otherwise, those decisions are left to the White House. President Joe Biden halted new oil and gas leases during his first 15 months in office.
Drivers lined up for hours to buy the cheaper fuel, with cars snaking around the block waiting to get into the pumps. Curtis strolled around a crowd of automobiles, offering to pump gas and clean car windows while the drivers in his district filled their tanks.
As the station returned its prices back to nearly $5 per gallon at the conclusion of the event, Curtis told The Salt Lake Tribune there is a better way to address gas prices that doesn’t include reliance on other countries.
“We can be energy independent and we can still reduce emissions,” Curtis said. “And that’s what the caucus is all about. Republicans going on the offensive and saying, “Look, we care about the environment, we want to reduce emissions, here’s our plan.”
In June, the Bureau of Land Management was scheduled to hold its first oil and gas lease auction — one 160-acre parcel of Uinta Basin land, but the bureau later canceled the sale.
Despite the Biden administration’s previous pause on new leases, drilling in Utah has continued. The moratorium did not apply to existing leases and unused wells continue to be available throughout Utah.
Heather Andrews, the state director of AFP Utah, said the political organization helped pay the difference on the cheaper gas.
Correction • This story has been updated with the correct name Heather Andrews.