Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Developing sound refinery energy policy

May 13, 2014

The Hill

Developing sound refinery energy policy

By Reps. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.)

When an average American walks into a room and flips a switch, they expect the lights to turn on. When temperatures drop below freezing or climb above 90 degrees, they expect to be able to adjust their thermostat accordingly. In the event of an emergency, they expect that they can drive the family car or book a flight to get to where they need to be quickly and efficiently. Americans are blessed with the ability to take energy for granted.

This is perhaps no more true than with transportation fuels. Few people could identify a refinery on sight, and few policymakers understand the processes by which they operate.  Nevertheless, they stand as the central hub in a nationwide network that spun out 845 million barrels of gasoline in 2013 alone. These refineries also produce the diesel, jet fuel, kerosene, and asphalt that literally move this nation. Their products shape the lives of Americans at home and our allies abroad.

The importance of American refineries goes beyond providing the products that drive our economy; they are also important job creators. Refineries exist in remote areas and alongside major cities, not just on the Gulf Coast and other parts of the “oil patch,” but also in places like Indiana, Pennsylvania and Washington State. Nationwide, they employ hundreds of thousands of Americans.  In addition to the jobs refineries create, the revenue generated by refining the oil and gas that keep America operating often serves as the bedrock of small communities. On average, refiners pay roughly 40 percent of their income in taxes, which doesn't factor in the taxes that employees pay. 

Despite their significant contributions, this is a complex time for the refining sector. Refiners are on the front lines of compliance with government mandates on the design of the fuel supply. Environmental and safety rules are ever-changing and must be complied with precisely. The complexity of the refining sector and the lack of awareness of the critical role refineries play in America's energy world are the reasons we’ve come together to form the bipartisan Congressional Refinery Caucus. Our goal is for this caucus to serve as a clearinghouse for information about issues facing the fuel manufacturing sector. This will provide an opportunity for us to hold frequent meetings where stakeholders from academia, the industry, and the administration can meet and discuss these topics and raise awareness of this important industry. We do not expect Members of this caucus to agree on every issue. Debate and discussion are critical to developing the kinds of policies that will help America maintain the proper balance in safely developing and producing our natural resources.

For too long, the oil and gas space has been painted with a broad brush. As crucial as upstream operations and midstream pipeline assets are to our districts, refineries remain an integral part of the equation. Refineries are critically important to this country, and we believe our caucus will serve as an important educational tool to help achieve the right energy policy for America.

Olson has represented Texas's 22nd Congressional District since 2009. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Richmond has represented Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Homeland Security and the Small Business committees.