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Illinois’ Natural Resources Could Help Relieve Gas Prices

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Tanker Truck/Gas/Fuel (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Tanker Truck/Gas/Fuel (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (AP) – A remedy to high gas prices could be found by looking to Illinois’ own natural resources, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Monday.

The Republican proposed ideas for easing the pain at the pump, including research on harnessing natural gas from shale in the Illinois basin, making tax credits for renewable energy permanent, speeding up the drilling permit process in the Gulf of Mexico and eliminating so-called small gasoline monopolies.

Illinois is among six states where the average price for a gallon of gas has topped $4 and several more are close behind, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge.

Kirk wouldn’t offer a specific timeline on when his ideas could come to fruition or how much they would lower gas prices, but he said new sources must be sought immediately.

“We undervalue Illinois’ energy resources,” he said.

Kirk said shale deposits in the Illinois Basin – which rests beneath parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky – are ripe for research, especially considering new technologies.

Kirk could not detail those new technologies. But recently, hydraulic fracturing has been making headlines in other states. The drilling technique, also known as “fracking,” involves injecting water, sand and additives underground to create fractures to help free the gas. It is credited with unlocking more natural gas but criticized by some for possibly endangering water quality.

Most tax credits on renewable energy sources – solar and hydro for example – will expire in 2013.

“That really gives an uncertain signal to America’s inventors about whether their technology will be viable or not,” Kirk said. He said Congress should extend the credits indefinitely.

He also argued that federal regulation has created so-called small gasoline monopolies – more than a dozen geographic areas, including Chicago, have their own recipe for gasoline and drivers aren’t allowed to buy other kinds. He backs legislation recently introduced by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri to address the issue.

Kirk said speeding up the off shore drilling permit process would help ease reliance on foreign oil. After a moratorium of several months, the Obama administration resumed issuing drilling permits earlier this year amid pressure from the industry and lawmakers. However, several big oil producers say they’re still waiting for permits to be approved.

The senator also announced a new energy commission with an executive from Navistar International Corp.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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