Cantwell, Specter Spearhead Senate Call to Restore Energy Bill Oil Savings
Senate's Million Barrel Oil Savings Omitted from Energy Bill Last Week
Negotiators Could Restore Energy Security Measure in Wrap-up of Energy Conference, Scheduled for Sunday & Monday
U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) today called on energy bill negotiators to set an oil savings target for the United States of at least a million barrels of oil a day by 2015. Cantwell and Specter were joined by a bipartisan group of their colleagues in supporting a provision included in the Senate-passed energy bill, which was omitted from the version of the legislation agreed to by conferees last week. Nevertheless, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has signaled his intention to offer an amendment based on the Senate's oil savings provision during wrap-up of the energy bill conference, if the "Big Four" negotiators-the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Energy Committees-are unable to reach an agreement on the issue.
"Americans agree that oil dependence is dangerous and look to us for immediate action to alleviate this growing burden," the Senators wrote. "We must answer to the American people with a commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign regimes by including a requirement to save at least one million barrels of oil per day by the year 2015."
The one million barrel a day goal has broad bipartisan support in the Senate, and was added to a previous version of energy legislation on a 99-1 vote. This year, Cantwell's amendment to go even further and substantially increase the Senate's oil savings target-equivalent to 40 percent of projected American imports in 20 years, or 7.6 million barrels a day by 2025-failed narrowly, on a 47-53 vote.
"The United States could easily achieve substantial oil savings over the next two decades, far surpassing the goal contained in the Senate bill," the Senators added. "Our industries and farmers have been hard at work developing technologies and fuels, and it is imperative that we harness this potential to bolster our national and economic security."
The issue of oil savings could surface again within the energy bill conference in the next couple of days. Negotiators will hold a rare Sunday meeting tomorrow, July 24, and are expected to convene again on Monday. In addition to Cantwell and Specter, the letter was signed by Senators Harkin, Snowe, Clinton, Feingold, Lieberman, Bayh, Kerry, Feinstein, Obama, Reed and Schumer.
[Text of the Senators' letter immediately follows.]
July 23, 2005
Dear Energy Bill Conferees:
The challenges of global terrorism, homeland security, persistently high energy prices, the growing appetite for oil resources in emerging economies in China and India , and our own needs for a stable energy supply to sustain our economy have elevated the stakes of the national debate on energy policy. Our energy strategy is now undeniably a critical element of our future national security, global competitiveness, and the health of our domestic economy. Americans agree that oil dependence is dangerous and look to us for immediate action to alleviate this growing burden. We must answer to the American people with a commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign regimes by including a requirement to save at least one million barrels of oil per day by the year 2015.
Now, more than ever, there is nearly unanimous demand for action to significantly reduce rising energy costs and U.S. oil dependence. Recent polling shows that 92% of Americans believe oil dependence is a serious problem . [ 1] Experts across the political spectrum - citing concerns ranging from oil funded terrorism to competition with China - agree that the U.S must immediately begin to reduce petroleum demand. Today's global oil prices are around $60 per barrel - OPEC has locked in higher prices while projecting little additional spare capacity. Terrorists have identified and target oil as the "Achilles heel" of the United States . An al Qaeda statement following the October 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg declared, "By hitting the oil tanker in Yemen , the mujahedeen hit the secret line, the provision line and the feeding to the artery of the life of the crusader's nation". It is time to send a signal that the U.S. is serious about reducing its addiction to oil and eliminating easy targets and financing for those who wish us harm.
In 2003 the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor (99-1) of establishing a national strategy for reducing U.S. petroleum demand by 1 million barrels over the next decade. This year, the Senate continued its commitment by including additional provisions to help achieve this important oil savings target, such as a tire efficiency program, a renewable fuels standard, and incentives for the production of biofuels and consumer purchases of efficient vehicles. We must maintain the commitment to the one million barrels per day oil savings strategy and make good on our promise to the American people to pass legislation that clearly reduces our projected consumption of oil.
The United States could easily achieve substantial oil savings over the next two decades, far surpassing the goal contained in the Senate bill. Our industries and farmers have been hard at work developing technologies and fuels, and it is imperative that we harness this potential to bolster our national and economic security. The one million barrel savings goal in the Senate bill should really be considered just a baseline. With technology improvements and renewable fuel innovations, the U.S. could achieve substantially more savings, of at least 3 million barrels per day by 2015-more than we currently import from the Persian Gulf -and more than 11 million barrels per day by 2025.
A national commitment to oil savings would stimulate a stronger economy, creating jobs at home and increasing the competitiveness of US industries abroad. Most importantly, it would put us on a new path of greater security by decreasing our exportation of wealth to hostile regimes and countries that fund and harbor terrorism, help insulate our economy from terrorist strikes on global oil infrastructure, temper the rising competition for oil resources, and open up new diplomacy options for combating global terrorism.
We urge you to insist upon retaining the Senate energy bill's oil savings provisions during the current conference committee negotiations. Thank you for your attention to this very important matter.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
John F. Kerry
 Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Survey on American Attitudes on the Environment, May 2005.