Republicans criticize Rick Nolan for voting against "Lowering Gas Prices" bill that wouldn't lower gas prices

Rep. Rick Nolan
Rep. Rick Nolan

The National Republican Campaign Committee took a shot at Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan last week, bashing him for voting against a bill that would, according to the bill's sponsors, expand oil drilling and lower gas prices.

"Yet again, Rick Nolan has walked in lockstep with President Obama and his anti-energy agenda," the NRCC wrote in an email "Unfortunately for Minnesota families, they will have to find ways to budget their expenses in order to afford the high cost of gasoline during the Nation's busiest driving season."

See also: Republicans call on Rick Nolan to cancel fundraiser featuring convicted child molester

The swipe isn't exactly surprising. The NRCC has attacked Nolan before, on issues from veterans' benefits to Obamacare to the IRS, and in the 2012 election cycle the group spent more than $2 million trying to defeat the congressman. This year, Nolan is in a tight race with challenger Stewart Mills in a district that leans only slightly Democratic.

The trouble with this attack, however, is that the bill, called the "Lowering Gas Prices To Fuel An America That Works Act," likely wouldn't do any of what it promises.

"I think the bill is a bit pie in the sky, quite honestly," said Charles Ebinger, the director of the nonpartisan Brookings Institute's Energy Security Initiative. Ebinger explained that simply drilling for more oil in America won't make gas prices cheaper, mostly because that newly drilled gas probably won't ever make it back to the States.

Even if the U.S. did open up drilling in places like Alaska, Ebinger says, there aren't enough refineries in the States to handle it, so companies would have to send the product off to other countries to get it processed.

From there, the oil probably wouldn't head back to the U.S. and decrease prices. That's because oil consumption in the States has declined over the past few decades, which has led to gas prices falling. Now, fuel companies can make more money by selling oil in Asia, where there's higher demand for their product.

"So I just can't see a scenario where it would run gasoline prices down," said Ebinger. "This just looks like, to me, a complete giveaway to the gas industry, which doesn't need it! They're doing just fine."

That's part of the reason Nolan ended up voting against the legislation, according to the congressman's communications director, Steve Johnson.

"This partisan bill does nothing to lower gas prices, would prove costly to taxpayers, as well as threaten tourism, recreation, and the environment," Johnson said in a statement.

Despite the criticism, the bill was still technically bipartisan, as 10 Democrats voted with 219 Republicans to push it through the House. Interestingly, one of those Democrats was Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. We reached out to his office to learn the reasoning behind his "Yes" vote but didn't hear anything back.

According to, gasoline costs about $3.59 in Minnesota, ranking it 20th in the country.

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter at @robbiefeinberg.

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