STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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Mr. OBAMA. I am pleased to join my distinguished colleague from South Dakota, Mr. THUNE, in introducing the Alternative Energy Refueling System Act of 2006. I applaud his work in crafting this bill and I hope my colleagues will provide their full support and work towards its swift enactment.
As members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator from South Dakota and I have worked to promote the expansion of alternative fuels production capacity in the United States--most notably with the enactment of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) included in last year's Energy Policy Act of 2005. The RFS states that 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol must be phased into the 140-billion-gallon annual national gasoline pool during the next 6 years.
That's a bold step in reducing our reliance on foreign oil, but we can't just rely on greater production of alternative fuels if we also don't make sure those fuels are available at gas stations. We need to make sure that when American drivers want to ``fill `er up'' with something other than petroleum, they can.
Last year, I introduced S. 918, a bill to provide a tax credit for the cost of installing alternative fuel pumps. I was pleased that this tax credit was enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Soon hundreds more ethanol and biodiesel pumps throughout the United States will be installed as a result of this new policy.
But if we are serious about reducing our reliance on foreign oil in an expeditious fashion, we must intensify our efforts. We must double, triple, and quadruple our efforts. And that's exactly the purpose of our bill today, which simply provides a partial Federal reimbursement for the installation of alternative fuel pumps that otherwise are ineligible or have received the new tax credit.
Many more alternative refueling properties will be established by this bill--a strong complement to the tax credit passed last year. And this bill is fully offset in that it is financed by using just a small slice of the approximately $70 million in annual interest generated by the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund. We don't ask to use that small slice in perpetuity, but just for the next several years until enough alternative fuel refueling capacity is established across the country.
The total principal of the LUST fund is more than $2.5 billion--none of which we propose to draw down. And given that this fund has been capitalized by a one-tenth-of-a-penny fee for every gallon of petro-gas or petro-diesel purchased by the American people, it is altogether appropriate that any interest generated by any unused fractions-of-pennies be reinvested in infrastructure that weans our Nation from its dependence on the Middle East. All of this can be accomplished, while ensuring that the integrity of the LUST fund--which is used to clean up underground storage tanks--remains fully intact and untouched. In fact, I hope my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee will take note and will increase funding for LUST fund activities to the level it has long needed and deserved.
The Thune-Obama bill is a good bill that will accomplish good things for our national energy dependence, but even if enacted, this bill cannot by itself guarantee more alternative fuel refueling stations. As my colleagues are aware, alternative fuel refueling stations make up only a tiny fraction of the nationwide network of gas stations. And while that fraction is growing by leaps and bounds, the vast majority of stations within that small fraction are independently owned and operated.
By comparison, the big oil companies--the Exxons, the BPs, or the ConocoPhillips of the American petroleum industry--have not installed alternative fuel pumps. Rather, the evidence is accumulating that these companies have used institutional policies to deter the installation of alternative fuel pumps despite their retailers asking to sell these new fuels to meet growing consumer demand.
I think these practices must end. It is time for these companies to demonstrate leadership and reinvest in America. Until that day comes, however, I pledge to continue my work in Congress with like-minded colleagues to ensure that this Nation invests in a 21st Century refueling structure. The bill we are introducing today is part of that investment. I thank my colleague from South Dakota for his authorship on this bill.