Issue Position: Meeting America's Energy Needs
For all of our military might and economic dominance, America's Achilles heel is the oil we cannot live without. Oil fuels 96 percent of our transportation needs, and it is critical to the manufacture of millions of goods and products in this country. The interruption of even a small amount of oil for just a few days could cause economic panic and soaring prices. A serious embargo could cause untold disaster. Senator Obama has been a Senate leader in pushing for a comprehensive national energy policy and has introduced a number of bills to get us closer to the goal of energy independence. By putting aside partisan battles, he has found common ground on fuel economy standards, renewable fuels, and clean coal.
Breaking the Fuel Efficiency Logjam.
Senator Obama led a bipartisan effort to raise CAFE fuel economy standards, which have remained frozen for 20 years because of congressional gridlock. He developed an innovative approach to gradually increase CAFE standards while protecting the financial future of American automakers. The resulting Obama-Lugar-Biden bill would establish concrete targets for annual CAFE increases while giving industry the flexibility to meet those targets. The Obama-Lugar-Biden Fuel Economy Reform Act has gained the support of Senators who had never supported CAFE increases before, and the basic concept of the legislation was endorsed by President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union address.
"There's a way Congress can get moving. Senator Barack Obama plans to reintroduce a bill that would set a 4 percent annual increase in efficiency as a target. . . . Given the long Congressional stalemate, the Obama bill could be an important first step. It commands some bipartisan support, and unlike Mr. Bush's approach, it promises real as opposed to hypothetical results."
-New York Times, Editorial, January 30, 2007
Making a Deal With Detroit: Health for Hybrids
Senator Obama introduced legislation encouraging automakers to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles by helping the companies shoulder the health care costs of their retirees. Domestic automakers would get health care assistance in exchange for their investing 50 percent of the savings into technology to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"(Healthcare for Hybrids') stroke of genius is in connecting the dots - decreasing oil consumption is clearly a top national priority but it will not happen without a national investment."
-Walter McManus, director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation
"Obama has come up with an audacious proposal that has won the backing of enviros and the United Auto Workers (UAW), and should win the support of both the cash-strapped auto industry and motorists suffering from sticker shock. . . . Obama's proposal may be characteristic of his work, finding support across class (and other) lines."
-The American Prospect, June, 2006
Expanding the Use of E85 and Other Renewable Fuels.
While there are more than 180,000 gas stations all over America, there are only about 400 that offer E85 -- a blend of 85 percent clean-burning, domestically grown ethanol and 15 percent petroleum gasoline. Gas stations will now be eligible for generous tax credits for installing E85 ethanol refueling pumps, thanks to a law advocated by Senator Obama and Senator Jim Talent (R-MO). The tax credit covers 30 percent of the costs of switching one or more traditional petroleum pumps to E85. Obama's legislation will help create the infrastructure to support more flexible-fuel vehicles (cars that run on both E85 and regular gasoline). Senator Obama also sponsored an amendment that became law providing $40 million for commercialization of a combined flexible fuel vehicle/hybrid car within five years.
Senator Obama introduced legislation with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to require 2 billion gallons of alternative diesels, such as biodiesel, to be produced domestically by 2015. Obama also sponsored legislation requiring oil companies, that made at least $1 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2006 to invest at least 1 percent of the their total reported first quarter 2006 profits into installing E85 pumps.
Senator Obama worked with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to introduce the American Fuels Act that would increase the domestic production, distribution, and use of biofuels, including expanded manufacture of flexible fuel vehicles, tax credits for biofuels, and a nationwide distribution infrastructure.
Senator Obama and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), launched a Government Accountability Office investigation of large oil companies to see if they are fighting the installation of alternative fuel pumps. That investigation will be completed in April 2007.
Increasing the Clean Use of Illinois Coal
Senator Obama worked with Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) to secure $85 million for research into a process that will turn Illinois-basin coal into clean-burning fuel for cars and trucks (Fischer-Tropsch fuels). Coal fuel has powered all of South Africa's cars and trucks for the last 50 years. The research could help us one day satisfy our energy needs from Illinois' coal mines instead of Saudi Arabia's oil fields.
"The American coal community applauds the leadership of Senators Bunning and Obama. . . America's coal reserves . . . can be utilized to provide ultra-clean transportation fuels for our armed forces, airlines and anyone interested in spending less at the pump to fill-up their vehicle. . . . Americans must take steps now to make greater use of our most abundant and affordable domestic source of energy: coal. This legislation is a big step in that direction."
-Kraig R. Naasz , President and CEO, National Mining Association