Tester: Partisan politics getting in the way of common sense

As Sharla and I buckle down for another harvest near Big Sandy, we're feeling what all Montanans are feeling at home—the pinch of out-of-control energy prices.

It's an issue that I deal with every day as a U.S. Senator and as a family farmer.  Our energy problems are the result of poor presidential leadership and a weak dollar.  And with $12 billion in borrowed money going to Iraq every month, our dollar isn't going to get stronger any time soon.

For 30 years we've known that depending on imported oil was dangerous foreign policy and bad economic policy.  But we haven't done what it takes to get ourselves off it.  That needs to change.  And that's why I support a three-part plan for the short term and the long term:

First, we ought to drill more in places that make sense, like eastern Montana.  The Bakken Formation holds an estimated four billion barrels of recoverable oil.  I don't have a problem with responsible drilling offshore or in parts of Alaska set aside for drilling.  But I want to be darn sure that oil stays in America, not shipped off to Asia so the big oil companies can make more record profits.

Second, I believe that oil speculation and hedging has gotten way out of hand.  Some folks on Wall Street are trading oil they never intend to actually use in order to make a quick buck.  That creates artificial supply and demand, resulting in artificially high gas prices.  That's why I support smart legislation cracking down on out-of-control manipulation of the oil market.

And of course, conservation and renewable energy have to play a big role in our energy future.  It's time to make a serious investment in renewable energy like biofuels, wind, solar power, and geothermal energy.

Unfortunately, a few White House allies in Congress shot down important legislation like extending tax credits for renewable energy, cracking down on speculators and hedgers, and getting tough on OPEC.  They pay lip service to the need for renewable energy, then insist on voting only for legislation that gives big oil bigger profits.

Drilling for more oil can't be the only solution.  Drilling is a bridge, but without a long-term solution it will be a bridge to nowhere.  As a country that uses 25 percent of the world's oil, yet has only three percent of it, drilling alone won't solve the problem.  Some on the other side of the aisle are not shooting straight with Montanans.

You would think from listening to some politicians that the big oil companies' agenda is the solution to record high gas prices.  That defies common sense when the U.S. is exporting 1.4 million barrels every day to other countries.  It's another example of the failed leadership that has taken the price of a gallon of gas from $1.50 in 2001 to more than $4 today. 

With our national and economic security at stake, it's time for all of Congress to work together.  It's a shame partisan politics gets in the way of common sense.  Montana families and main street businesses deserve better than that.