Mr. Speaker, the second lady of the gulf named Rita came across the shore of Texas and Louisiana, howling her winds and bringing her thundering rain this past weekend. Like her sister storm, Katrina, she took aim at the low-lying towns and the energy capital of the world that is located in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

Nine of the 26 refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, alone were shut down. These refineries in and around Port Arthur refine 27 percent of the Nation's gasoline. Sixty percent of the Nation's gasoline is refined from New Orleans to Corpus Christi, Texas. Offshore drilling rigs were also shut down, and the start-up time is still undetermined.

Being a target in the hurricane alley, these refineries and oil rigs are vulnerable to nature. That is one reason why the United States must explore opening up new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida, off the coast of California.

This is a national security issue; and we must, with proper environmental safeguards, drill in these areas so that the energy does not cease because of the anger of the ladies of the gulf.