Panama City Beach- Local tourism leaders say the 2011 summer season is off to a great start, but Congressman Steve Southerland is still worried the higher prices will take a toll on this area’s biggest industry.
Southerland used a local gas station Wednesday as a back-drop to promote expanded drilling, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico.
"This administration would say that the American people would have to adjust, that the American people would have to change their lifestyle, they'll have to drive less. Well, that's ridiculous when we have the largest deposits of natural resources than any other country," said Southerland.
Congressman Southerland is not optimistic that the government will lift the Gulf drilling moratorium.
He believes the Obama administration has a different plan.
"They would like our oil prices, gas prices, to be equal to European nations. That means that there is no plan to bring relief at the pump to American people and that's just irresponsible," said the Congressman.
Consumers aren’t the only people suffering from higher gas prices. Gas station owners say that no matter how much gas costs, they still make the same amount of money.
"It doesn't matter at the retail level if gas prices are four dollars per gallon or one dollar per gallon. We tend to stay at about the same cents per gallon profit," said Jim Lewis, the owner of several Express Lane gas stations.
Lewis also says the higher prices are hurting the sale of other items in his Express Lane stores.
"Lets face it, most people only have so much budget money a month to spend on gas, potato chips, and going out to eat," said Lewis.
Congressman Southerland is encouraging residents to contact members of congress about high gas prices.