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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

ENERGY -- (Senate - March 26, 2007)


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I come to the Senate floor to speak about the issue of energy and the importance of this Senate and this Congress and this country moving forward with an authentic picture with respect to energy independence for our country. When I get up in the morning and think about the major issues that are facing our country, there are three issues which always come to mind.

The first is what is happening in Iraq and around the world and how we restore America's greatness and how we put Humpty Dumpty together again with respect to making sure America's greatness which we have enjoyed for the last two centuries is something we enjoy in the 21st century and beyond.

Second are the difficult and important domestic issues which we are attempting to confront today--the issue of health care and how we move forward to create a system of health insurance and health care availability for all the people of America, an issue which continues to confront us.

Third, the issue of energy and how we look forward. The issue of energy is something many of us in this Chamber and in the House of Representatives and the White House today will continue to work on, which is so important to all of us.

With respect to Iraq, we will be facing that issue here in the weeks and months ahead. I believe strongly there is unity in the United States of America in terms of our support for our troops. I believe there is a long-term desire for us to make sure what we do is establish stability in the Middle East.

I believe all of us want to make sure we are doing everything we can do to support our troops. Nonetheless, the debate will occur here on this floor this week and beyond. It is an important debate. It is a debate that involves perhaps the most important issue of our time. That is the issue of war and peace and the debate that is certainly appropriate to be held on the floor of the Senate.

With respect to health care, I am pleased with the efforts the Senate Finance Committee and the HELP Committee are undertaking, with the leadership of Senator Baucus and Senator Kennedy and others, as we try to address the issue of health care. This year for sure we will move forward with a program that hopefully will expand the coverage of health insurance to the children of America. We think about 9 million children in this country today who have no health insurance. The expansion of the SCHIP program is something that is very important for all of these children across our many States who today do not have health insurance.

But the other issue, the energy issue, is one which is winding its way through our various committees in the Senate today. In the Agriculture Committee, under the leadership of Senator TOM HARKIN, we currently are looking at title 9 of the farm bill. We will have a robust law that will move us forward with a new agenda with respect to agriculture and energy.

In the Senate Energy Committee, under the leadership of Senators BINGAMAN and DOMENICI, we are working on several bills that will help us move forward toward energy independence.

In the Senate Finance Committee, under the leadership of Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley, we have numerous initiatives on the table that will create incentives for us to have the kind of biofuels, solar energy, and the other kinds of energy that will create the new environment for us to be successful in a program on energy independence.

For me, when I think about energy, I see the dawning of a new age for my State of Colorado and also for America. It is a dawning of an age for America which we ought to embrace with vigor. It is the dawning of the age of a clean energy future for the United States of America. One year ago in my State I hosted the first Colorado Renewable Energy Summit. At the summit, there were more than 500 of us brought together to talk about our national energy policy and the energy opportunities we face in my State.

We put renewable energy in the headlines for Colorado, and we have kept energy at the top of Colorado's agenda for the past year. This last Saturday, 2 days ago, on March 24, 2007, we again summoned the people of Colorado and we had over 1,000 people who attended a summit at the Colorado Convention Center. We were joined in that summit by my colleague Senator WAYNE ALLARD, by Colorado Governor Ritter, the mayor, six Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the president of the Colorado Senate, the speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives and, as I said, more than 1,000 people in my State who were interested in renewable energy and energy efficiency, not only for our State but for the entire country.

Because of the work we have taken on in the last year in Colorado, today we have a Colorado Renewable Energy collaboration. That laboratory is an incredible association with the National Renewable Energy Lab, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Even though the ink is not yet dry on the formation of the collaboration, these four great research institutions have already launched a world-class research program. It is called the Colorado Center for Bioresearch and Biofuels.

Colorado's private sector is moving forward, too, on a variety of different fronts. First, with respect to wind, Colorado has added over 60 megawatts of wind generation in the last 4 years. But consider what is on the agenda for 2007. In 2007, my State of Colorado will add another 775 megawatts. That is more than tripling the State's production of wind generation. That is an equivalent of the generation we get from approximately two full-fledged powerplants.

Beyond wind, we have embraced solar. Since the passage of a citizens' initiative in Colorado 2 years ago, Colorado's solar industries have seen a growth of 40 percent every year. The State's first commercial solar electricity project will be constructed in my native San Luis Valley in 2007. We moved from wind to solar to biodiesel. In 2004, there was no biodiesel produced in the State of Colorado. Today we have three plants in my State that are producing more than 30 million gallons a year, and a fourth plant is ready to start operations in the production of biodiesel.

We go beyond biodiesel to ethanol. Two years ago we had no ethanol plants in the State of Colorado. Today we have three ethanol plants that are producing 90 million gallons of ethanol, and we have a fourth plant that will come on line in 2007, adding 50 million more gallons per year, and several other plants that are in the planning stages.

That is not all. In my State of Colorado, we have moved forward with wind energy companies, with solar, photovoltaic designers, and manufacturers who are opening facilities in places such as Larimer County. Cellulosic ethanol companies, which are engaged in research and development, inform us within 2 years they will be at a point where cellulosic ethanol will be available in the commercial markets.

We have hybrid vehicle manufacturers who are doing the technology development and research in my State, hybrid and plug-in vehicle battery manufacturers, engine efficiency research companies, such as German manufacturers in El Paso County and Colorado Springs.

There is a whole lot more that is happening with respect to clean renewable energy in my State of Colorado. We have a long road ahead of us, but we have found our stride and we know the destination. We want America to be the world's center for renewable energy research, for development and for production. I want my State to play a significant role as we embrace that agenda.

Let's be clear about what is happening with respect to energy in the United States of America. Some of us need to

remind ourselves it was not so long ago when President Nixon and then President Carter later on said we needed to embrace a new ethic of energy independence. This was in the 1970s, some 35, 40, 45 years ago when we were talking about the importance of energy independence, frankly, because of the economics that were driving it at the time. There was great concern with respect to the formation of OPEC and with respect to the volatility of markets that could disrupt the American economy.

We see what happened in response to the leadership in the 1970s where there were great investments made in technologies that would look at alternative fuels that would power our homes and cars in this country. But the driver of economics went away when the price of oil dropped to around $20, $21, $22, $23 per barrel. Over this last year, we saw the price of oil get up to $60 and $70 per barrel, and we saw the price of a gallon come up to $3 a gallon, in some places more than $3.50, $3.60 a gallon, the price of diesel following the same path. It became apparent at the time the economic driver was not the only significant driver here.


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, let me continue with respect to the comments I was making concerning the issue of energy.

If you think about the 1970s and the 1980s, it was the economy that was at the root of what we were trying to do to develop solar energy and wind energy and looking at biofuels and the like. A lot has changed in those times. There is tremendous interest and a tremendous amount of energy being spent in each of our committees here in the Senate and the House of Representatives and in the White House and the Department of Energy on a clean energy future for America.

Some people will ask the question today: Well, is this another short-lived agenda in the same way it was in the 1970s and the 1980s? When you look at the charts and you see what we were investing in clean energy technology back in the 1970s and 1980s, it was significantly higher than what we are investing in the 1980s and the 1990s and the early 2000s.

I submit that things have changed because the drivers today are not only the economic drivers of our time. Today when we look at the energy issues we face in our world, it is not just about the volatility of the energy markets we see around the world and here in the United States, there are two other drivers that are equally as important. The first of those drivers has to be our national security. When you think about the fact that today we are importing about 60 percent of our oil from foreign countries, in the next 10 to 15 years, if projections continue the way they are, and growth continues the way it is expected to continue, we will be importing 70 percent of our oil from foreign countries.

If that occurs, then we will continue to compromise the foreign policy, the national security of this Nation in a manner none of us should ever allow to happen. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for this Congress, for the Senate, and for this country to allow that to happen.

In the latest skirmish with Israel and Lebanon, one has to ask the question about where that money was coming from that was funding the militia group of Hezbollah in its firing of nearly 10,000 rockets into the northern city of Haifa in northern Israel. One has to ask that question, where was the money coming from that would fund the 10,000 members of that militia group called Hezbollah in Lebanon and other places around the world?

Well, we do not need to look very far for the answer to that question. You and I know--you as the Presiding Officer are well aware of the security interests here in our country--very well that the money creating and funding the terrorist groups in places such as Lebanon is coming from oil. It is coming from oil we are paying $60 and $70 a barrel for today.

So the very national security of our country requires us, it demands of us, and we can do no less than to move forward with an agenda that grasps the imperative of energy independence in our world. That energy independence will come about with great opportunities as we look at a clean energy future for America. We will be able to derive jobs and create the kind of national economic security we need in the United States of America.

The final driver is the issue of global warming. The debate is about whether global warming is an issue that needs to be confronted in the United States of America, the debate that was being held several years ago. But I would imagine most people in the United States of America today are saying it is important for us to confront this issue.

In fact, as we are opening this day in the Senate, Senator Bingaman and Senator Domenici are holding a hearing with members of the European Union on the issue of global warming. Things have changed. Things have changed from the 1970s and the 1980s and the 1990s when America slept, and the only factor that was driving us to energy independence was the volatility of the markets.

Today the driver is national security. We cannot afford to compromise our national security by continuing to be overdependent, by continuing our current addiction to foreign oil. We cannot afford to ignore the issue of global warming that threatens the future of civilization. How we approach those issues and how we develop solutions that bring us to a positive movement forward is very important.

The issue of energy is one that can bring America together. To be sure, the last 6 years have seen a divided America on many issues, including Iraq. Energy can bring together Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, much as the Energy Futures Coalition has done in working with all of us. We crafted legislation that we call Set America Free. It is my hope that by the time the Senate finishes for the year or before we begin the August recess, we will have legislation that is bipartisan in nature, that will move us forward with a new energy future for America. That energy future will be one that is bound by a vision of a clean energy future that includes renewable energies, new technologies, and that goes after the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency and addresses the issue of global warming.

I ask unanimous consent that a portion of a speech I gave at an energy summit in Colorado be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD


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