As gas prices soar, common sense solutions are on the decline. Once again, the American consumer is paying the price at the hand of foreign oil rich nations and OPEC. Simply put, we do not produce enough oil or natural gas from domestic sources despite our overwhelming abundance and every year less and less crude oil comes from our own nation.

Gas prices are hovering near all-time highs, hitting the three dollar mark right here on the Gulf Coast, the petrochemical capital. I know, I fill up at the same gas pumps and pay the same prices as my constituents. Not to mention my old Jeep doesnt get the same gas mileage it use to. But what most people do not know is the reasons behind the recent increase in gas prices.

It is important to understand that U.S. oil companies only have a 10 percent stake in actual crude oil production. The vast majority of crude oil is produced by members of OPEC, therefore they are in control of setting the price. OPEC is upping their reserves, but putting less crude on the market driving up the price per barrel.

Another reason for escalating prices is actually one billion reasons, China. Countries such as China and India are paying above market prices for crude oil. The Chinese economy is expanding so rapidly that they are buying up every ounce of oil that they can get their hands on at any price. Simple economics dictates that when supply becomes limited, prices increase.

In an effort to gain control of our oil and gas destiny, I have filed legislation that will allow us to expand domestic drilling, lessening our dependence on nations unfriendly to the United States. I have sponsored and co-sponsored legislation that would immediately expand drilling throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico, off the east and west coasts and increase the states share of royalties oil companies pay for off shore leases. This additional revenue for the State of Texas would be a significant boost to funding our education system and better prepare us financially for disaster relief.

According to the Department of Energy, last year the United States imported more crude oil than ever before. The White House this week released a staggering statistic that 1 in every 10 gallons of refined gasoline being sold at U.S. pumps is imported. Not hard to believe since we have not built a refinery in this country in 30 years. Due to the extensive and expensive permitting process is not feasible for companies to start from the ground up.

However, some good news is on the horizon. Shell recently announced that they plan to expand their Motiva refining facility in Port Arthur, making it the largest in the country. Pending approval of government regulations, Shell plans to have the refinery online by 2010 and produce 610,000 barrels of gasoline a day, exceeding Exxon Mobils Baytown refinery as the largest in the country.

Congress must come up with a diverse energy plan that incorporates increasing domestic production of crude oil and natural gas from off shore leases and in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), increase our domestic refining capacity, invest in alternative fuel choices, aggressively address price gouging reports and call for a short-term release of crude oil from the Strategic Oil Reserves to immediately ease the pain at the pump.

We must quit giving lip service to being energy sufficient. It is time for America to take charge of our energy policy and lessen the stranglehold of foreign countries. Thats just the way it is.