ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - July 29, 2005)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise to commend the chief sponsors of this bill in the Senate, Senators DOMENICI and BINGAMAN, who I think have displayed the sort of statesmanship and civility in working out this difficult legislation that I think all of us expect from this body. I also want to indicate the degree to which this bill takes significant steps in the right direction on energy policy. It helps us realize the promise of ethanol as a fuel alternative by requiring 7.5 billion gallons to be mixed with gasoline over the next few years. It provides a tax credit for the construction of E85 stations all over America--E85, a blend of ethanol and gasoline that can drastically increase fuel efficiency standards for our cars.
It will provide funding for the clean coal technologies that will move America to use its most abundant fossil fuel in a cleaner, healthier way, including more low emission transportation fuels, and it will support the development of what we hope ultimately will be a 500-mile-per-gallon automobile technology.
All of these things are wonderful and worthy of support. But I do have to say we have missed an opportunity and that is not the fault of the sponsors of this bill who have done yeoman's work. Rather, I think it is the timidity of all of us as a body in not addressing what has to be one of the most significant problems we face as a nation.
The Department of Energy predicts that American demand for fossil fuels will jump 50 percent over the next 15 years. The Heritage Foundation says this bill will do virtually nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Even President Bush and supporters of the bill in Congress concede as much.
As we debate this bill today, the price of crude oil has surpassed a record high of $60 a barrel, and gas is now up to $2.28 per gallon. At this price, the United States is sending $650 million overseas every single day.
As demand continues to skyrocket around the world, other countries have started to realize that guzzling oil is not a sustainable future. What is more, these countries have realized that by investing early in the energy-efficient technology that exists today, they can create millions of tomorrow's jobs and build their economies to rival ours.
China now has a higher fuel economy standard than we do, and it has 200,000 hybrids on its roads. Japan's Toyota is doubling production of the popular Prius in order to sell 100,000 in the U.S. next year, and it is getting ready to open a brand new plant in China. At the same time, Ford is only making 20,000 Escape Hybrids this year, and GM's brand won't be on the market until 2007.
So here we are. People paying record prices at the pump and America sending billions overseas to the world's most volatile region. We have countries like China and India using energy technology to create jobs and wealth, while our own businesses and workers fall further and further behind. And we have the energy bill that is before us today.
So I ask, is this the best America can do? The country that went to the moon and conquered polio? The country that led the technological revolution of the 1990s?
It would be one thing if the solutions to our dependence on foreign oil were pie-in-the-sky ideas that are years away. But the technology is right at our fingertips. Today, we could have told American car companies, we will help you produce more hybrid cars. We could have made sure there were more flexible fuel tanks in our cars. And so America has a choice.
We can continue to hang on to oil as our solution. We can keep passing energy bills that nibble around the edges of the problem. We can hope that the Saudis will pump faster and that our drills will find more. And we can just sit on our hands and say that it is too hard to change the way things are and so we might as well not even try.
Or we could accept and embrace the challenge of finding a solution to one of the most pressing problems of our time, our dependence on foreign oil. It will not be easy and it will not be without sacrifice. Government cannot make it happen on its own, but it does have a role in supporting the initiative that is already out there.
I vote for this bill reluctantly today, disappointed that we have missed our opportunity to do something bolder that would have put us on the path to energy independence. This bill should be the first step, not the last, in our journey towards energy independence.
I close by saying I hope we do not wait another 5 years before we work on the important issue of energy independence. I plan to support this bill because of the fine work that was done by the sponsors, but I would insist that in the next year or two we immediately address the issue of how we can wean ourselves off of Middle Eastern oil.
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