GASOLINE FOR AMERICA'S SECURITY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - October 07, 2005)
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Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, these are very hard times for energy consumers--from people on fixed incomes filling up their tanks to multi-billion dollar chemical companies facing soaring natural gas feedstock costs.
I think we did a good job with the energy bill, which cannot provide immediate relief, but will allow prices to stabilize in the future and to become more affordable over time.
If the global market gives us $60 per barrel oil, we are going to pay a lot for gas.
People say there is no global spare oil capacity.
Well, there is a lot here in the U.S. but we aren't allowed to use it--that is why I support expanded oil and gas production offshore in the OCS.
Limited refining capacity is leading to higher prices, but it is not the refiners fault.
We have 12 refining companies that make over 500,000 barrels per day.
That is more competitive than the software operating system industry, the airline industry, the semiconductor industry, and many others.
In the refining business, historical profits are well below average--that's why no one invested in expansion until recently, when margins improved.
Throughout this process, I have been concerned with both parties' approach to consumer protection on gasoline prices.
The original refinery bill had no FTC authority to protect consumers, only a study.
However, I am grateful to Chairman BARTON for making significant improvements to the committee-passed version of this bill.
The Stupak substitute goes even further by expanding refining capacity and applying tougher and clearer consumer protection standards to this bill.
It is clear that some price increases should be investigated--especially given price spikes in Atlanta that topped $6 after Hurricane Katrina.
But, I object to singling out the energy industry.
If we need the FTC to investigate price spikes for gasoline during emergencies, it should have the authority to investigate price increases for any necessity during an emergency.
We should cover water supplies, financial services, clothing, food, and other things we need to survive in the modern world.
I also don't agree with critics of this bill who call it a give-away to the energy industry.
When the refining industry has historically low returns and lots of pollution control investments to make, there is not much we can do to force them to expand capacity.
I am particularly grateful to Chairman BARTON for eliminating the New Source Review reform provisions in the committee-passed version of the bill.
That language had the potential to hinder our efforts to improve air quality in Houston.
My constituents are extremely concerned with air pollution in our district, and we are working on solutions with the help of both industry and residents.
The elimination of this provision greatly improves this bill and ensures that it will do no environmental harm to the Houston area, which has long struggled to contain air pollution and smog.
The courts and the EPA are working to reform New Source Review, a highly complex and controversial program, and it is wise for Congress to let them address this issue.
For my part, I am thankful for the Chairman accepting my amendment to respond to the crisis that brought us here--gasoline shortages and prices spikes after Hurricane Katrina and now Rita.
The amendment added an Energy Assurance title to the bill to require the Department of Energy to review, approve, and offer recommendations of the fuel supply segments of State evacuation plans.
The amendment also specifically authorizes critical energy facilities like refineries to request direct help from the Department of Energy during a federally declared emergency or disaster. It is in the national interest for refineries not to go down, and if they do, to get back up quickly,
The Department of Energy is authorized to provide assistance with generation capacity, water service, critical employees, ensure raw materials can be accessed, and any other necessity.
Neither the base bill nor the Stupak amendment is a perfect answer to our problems with refining capacity.
However, it is clear that the American public is feeling an energy pinch and is looking to Congress for action.
At this time, some amount of positive action is better than no action--which is why I will ultimately support this bill and encourage my colleagues to do the same.
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