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The Official Truth Squad

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Location: Washington, DC


THE OFFICIAL TRUTH SQUAD -- (House of Representatives - April 25, 2006)

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Georgia for his leadership on the issue. As you were saying, we are all in this boat together when we look at the energy issue and look at not only the fuel for our cars, but for our homes, how we generate electricity, how we address the energy needs of a booming economy, how we address the energy needs of a growing population.

As you said so very well, this is not a Democrat or a Republican issue, this is an American issue, and we need to go back and let history be a great teacher for us on this issue. How did we get to this point? This issue didn't just happen last week or last month or even last year. This is something that has been growing for a period of time. I really look at it as something that has been coming together over the past 30 years, when we look at what has happened with this.

If we go back to the mid-70s, a good start date to take for the sake of discussion on this issue is 1976. The reason we go back to 1976, Carter was President then and that was the last year that we had a refinery built in this country. That was the last year in which a new refinery, oil or gas refinery, was built on U.S. soil.

What we saw happen was an increase in regulation from the EPA and from OSHA and different environmental groups and different demands that environmental groups would place on creating or developing a new refinery or going out and exploring for oil or gas or developing new technologies to extract oil and gas to bring forward for the refining process.

Since 1976, we have seen layer upon layer upon layer of mandates, of rules, of regulations, that have made it very, very difficult to bring forward new technologies so that we can meet the energy needs of this Nation.

[Time: 20:45]

So that we are meeting the energy needs of this Nation. Great for instance. When you inventory what we had on line with refineries in 1981, there were 324 oil and gas refineries in this country in 1981. Today there are 148 refineries; 148 refineries. And, you know, the last refinery that went up in this country was out in Yuma, Arizona. It took 5 years and 4 months to get through the permitting process to put that refinery in place.

So we see that what we have done is to put in place a process where we have fewer refineries that are working, and fewer refineries to actually process the oil and gas that we need. Now at the same time our population is growing, we have more cars on the road, and we have more houses. Home ownership is at an all-time high.

We need to be processing 21 million barrels of oil a day. We have the capacity to refine 17 million barrels of oil a day. So what we have is a very tight supply line, and it is difficult for us to meet those needs with the current infrastructure that is in existence.

What we have to do also is couple those facts of fewer refineries and making it very difficult to do exploration and development. Now, you know, and I will tell you, the liberals on this issue need to realize the double-talk ought to stop. The double-talk needs to stop because you cannot have it both ways.

You do want oil and gas, but then you do not want the prices to be high, but you do not want to go drill in ANWR, you do not want to inventory the Outer Continental Shelf, and you do not want to extract any of those gas deposits that are there, and heaven knows, let us not go drill in the West. And that is what we have the tendency to hear.

But at the same time, they are saying gas is too high, we need to immediately move to alternative fuels. But then they say, you are not doing enough for alternative fuels, but the gas prices are too high. And, you know, I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is that kind of double-talk that makes it very difficult to sit down and work out a solution to this that is going to help us with this issue.

And I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, I look at this with the fewer refineries, with the lack of exploration and development, Hurricanes Rita and Katrina taking fully 25 percent of our refineries off line, and what you have is the perfect storm of an energy crisis. And at

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the same time that is happening, we are switching from the MTBE to ethanol.

There are some supply line problems with the distributors there. And, yes, this has been a very difficult week. And I am like most persons. I go to fill up my car, and I just, you know, gasp at the price. And I think, my goodness, this is not what we are used to. This is not what we have planned for. This is not what we have budgeted for. It is so expensive.

And I held town hall meetings, as you were saying, as the gentlemen from Georgia was saying, visiting with my constituents. And you talk to those who are on the school boards who are saying, you know, it is costing more to run buses, and you talk to those who are running their county governments. They are saying, our supply costs and our fuel costs are going up.

And it says, yes, indeed we need to do something. And I think it is very important that we realize that there are some things we can do in the short term. There are some things that we will do that will affect the midrange, and then we need to be very conscious as we look at a long-range plan, and as we look at working toward an energy independence day.

And, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the gentleman from Georgia in returning another night to talk a bit more about energy independence day and how we would get there and what that would look like.

And I think that as we look at this issue, we know legislatively there are some things that we can do and have done. We have passed the Energy Policy Act from the committee where I hold a seat, Energy and Commerce. And we first passed that piece of legislation in 2001, and it languished across the dome with our friends in the Senate. And finally this past June we were able to get that signed into law and passed to put $8 billion on to alternative fuels development, to simplify some the permitting process so that it is easier for those refineries to stand up and begin processing the fuels that we need.

You know, there is another piece of legislation, the Gas Act, that we passed after Katrina took place, and that is the piece of legislation we passed in this body on a 212-210 vote. It would federalize and put in place Federal penalties for price gouging. Unfortunately we did not have any help from our friends across the aisle on that. And we felt it was important to put in place, to federalize price gouging. Now, that piece of legislation that we passed is sitting in the Senate. The liberals are holding it up. It is time for us to pass this.

I yield to the gentlemen from Georgia.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. If the gentleman will yield. Yes, this is one of the things, and let us continue to look at this poster. You know, do we care more about caribou in ANWR, or do we want to come into an area that is an

enormously large area and go into an area land-mass-wise that is about the size of the State of South Carolina, and go into an area that is about the size of the Atlanta airport and drill, and go in on ice roads during the winter and drill?

You know, I mentioned that we need 21 million barrels of oil a day, and that we have the capacity for 17 million. In that field in the North Atlantic Wildlife Refuge, that field would yield as much as 1 million barrels a day. So I think that this is the time when we have to say, where are our priorities? And how are we going to use the fossil fuels that we have while we try to wean ourselves from foreign oil, and while we develop alternative sources, and as we look at this electric power generation?

I was in another State in a coastal area with one of our colleagues, and we were going across a bridge. I had been speaking in one area, and we were going to the other for a speech. And there were two power plants on either side of this bridge out in this bay. And as I looked out there, I said, oh, are these on hydroelectric power? What are we using? What is the source here? Is it wind? Is it water?

One was burning coal; the other was burning oil and gas. You know, you have to say, if they are both using fossil fuels, why are we doing that and not being good stewards of our fossil fuels and using all of those other natural resources that we have?

So this is a time for us to say, let us be very thoughtful, let us learn some lessons from what has happened over the past 30 years. Let us look at what happens when you give environmental groups the say over how you are going to develop your energy policy. When you say we are going to work day in and day out, and we are going to keep you from drilling, let us look at the lessons that we have learned and what ends up happening in the long run.

And as we look at conservation and preserving efforts, which will help us with the short-term fix, when we look at the legislative efforts that will help us in the midterm and the long term, let us be very, very mindful that every piece of legislation that we pass is going to have some consequences whether intended or unintended, and we need to be very mindful of that.

With that I yield back to the gentleman from Georgia.

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