The following is an op-ed written by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO):

As Americans make plans to celebrate our nation’s Independence next week and prepare for summer trips, they’re noticing rising gas prices. Many people are facing gas prices above $3.50 a gallon and some are already paying over $4 a gallon at the pump.

These rising fuel costs have a ripple effect across our economy, but sadly, this upward trend has been steady for several years. When gas prices rise, it hurts everyone, but it particularly squeezes small businesses. In fact, the average small business energy cost per sales ratio is 2.7 times greater than that of larger businesses, which hinders their ability to compete and create jobs during times of elevated fuel prices.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. Nature and entrepreneurial ingenuity have created the potential to transform America into an energy production juggernaut. Due to these new innovations and marketplace fundamentals, we now have access to enough domestic oil and natural gas resources to not only meet our nation’s energy needs, but that of our trading partners as well.  The benefits of this new domestic energy paradigm are greater energy security, hundreds of thousands of much-needed new jobs, and stable fuel prices for consumers and small businesses.

But these benefits will not be realized unless the private sector is allowed to safely produce and refine oil in an cost-efficient manner.

This week, the House of Representatives will consider several bipartisan pieces of legislation that will enhance the value of our energy resources to the United States by removing overly-burdensome, redundant bureaucratic and regulatory barriers that stand in the way of responsibly developing our nation’s energy production infrastructure.  

In addition, the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, which I chair, will hold a hearing on Thursday to examine the growing disparity between the accelerated rate of crude oil production on private lands and the limited capacity of refiners to process that oil into useful transportation fuels, and how this will impact  small energy businesses and the broader economy.

It seemed unimaginable a few years ago, but the present ability of the United States to produce crude oil could exceed the ability of midstream and downstream refineries to process and transport this valuable resource.  

When looking at our nation’s energy industry, many people forget that the refining process is just as important as the drilling or mining process. Oil refineries are industrial facilities that develop natural crude oil material into more useful energy products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, kerosene, and other similar products. You can’t have an efficient energy industry if there is a significant disproportion between production and refining.

During Thursday’s hearing, we will look at specific government barriers to the growth in refining capacity. We will examine expensive and time-consuming construction and operational permitting requirements and regulations, and we will have a candid and substantive discussion about whether the United States should lift its export ban on domestically produced crude oil enacted as part of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975.

And because many small energy businesses are involved in the exploration, production, transporting and delivery of oil, we will evaluate the benefit of reducing government barriers to growing our nation’s refining capacity.

Unless something is done to address the consequences of an imbalance between supply and refining capacity, many of the potential new jobs and lower gas prices associated with our nation’s energy bounty will be lost or go unfulfilled.

America’s energy capabilities are being strangled and rising gas prices are one of the consequences. This doesn’t have to be. A true ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy that unleashes our resources and improves our refinery capacities will lead to affordable energy for families and small businesses for years to come.

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) represents the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves as the Chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade.