ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2003-CONFERENCE REPORT-CONTINUED
Ms. LANDRIEU. Approximately 15 minutes.
Madam President, I join my colleagues on the floor to make relatively brief remarks about this very important energy bill.
As a member of the Energy Committee that has worked very hard to produce this bill, and as confident as I am that a majority of the people in Louisiana want us to produce a good and balanced bill, I want to stand to support the bill that is before us and to urge our colleagues to vote yes on this measure. I commend the chairman from New Mexico and the ranking member from New Mexico on the Senate side and the chairman and the ranking member on the House side for producing a bill that is truly the best bill this Congress can produce.
Is it a perfect bill? Absolutely not. Does it leave some very important sections out that many of us would like to see? Absolutely yes. Does it address every regional concern? No. And no national bill, no bill that comes out of this Congress, would ever be able to make each region perfectly happy because energy, of all issues, is not really a Democrat or Republican issue. It really is based on the regions of the country from which we all come.
Some regions consume a great deal more energy than they produce. Some regions and states, like Louisiana, are a net exporters of energy. We are proud of that fact. We get beat up a lot about it from people who do not necessarily understand the oil and gas industry, but we are proud to drill in environmentally sensitive ways for oil and gas and proud that we contribute so much to nations energy supply.
So we will never have a bill that is going to satisfy the regional and parochial interests of every Member. I am convinced, having worked on this Energy bill, or something like it, for the 7 years I have been in the Senate, that this is the best bill this Congress can put forward.
The second point is, after we pass this bill-and I am confident we will pass and the President will sign it, there is nothing that prevents us, either individually or as a Congress, from stepping forward in the next few months or years to make improvements and adjustments to the bill. We can continue to push for policies that increase our supply, increase new and renewable fuels, improve our conservation, and make this Nation more energy self-sufficient.
But we have not had an Energy bill since 1992. In that bill, Congress revolutionized wholesale electricity markets, encouraged renewable energy production through tax incentives and streamlined and reformed the licensing for nuclear facilities.
In this bill, one of the things I am proudest of, working with Senator Domenici, is to improve, increase and facilitate the construction and licensing of new nuclear facilities because I believe it is time for the United States to have a renaissance in its nuclear industry, so we can increase the supply of energy and drive down prices for all of our consumers, whether they be residential, industrial, or commercial.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the United States cannot recognize the importance of nuclear energy as a component of our energy policy. Many developed countries, such as France, have realized the new and exciting technologies in this area that make nuclear safe, clean, and reliable. In France, approximately 80 percent of all their electricity consumption is produced by nuclear power.
I am also very proud of the fact that we have, for the first time, recognized the tremendous contribution that Louisiana and Texas and, to a certain degree, Mississippi and Alabama make in producing oil and gas off of our shores.
We have sent to the Federal Government billions and billions of dollars of tax revenues. We have produced many jobs. We are doing our part in Louisiana to make our Nation energy self-sufficient, and we are proud of it because we think for every hour we work, every month we contribute, every year we send money, we put our troops less at risk having to defend America's interests for oil and gas and energy supplies around the world. It is something that people in Louisiana are very proud of.
The fact is, there is something for all of us to gain from this compromise bill. We need to move forward on this bill, in my opinion.
No. 1, it increases our domestic production of energy and, therefore, lowers the prices for everyone. It is hard to estimate what the lowering of the prices will be, but this bill addresses that concern and make steps towards providing a variety of energy sources.
Second, it creates new jobs. So for everyone who is concerned, it lowers unemployment. There is not a Senator in this Chamber who is not concerned about increasing employment rolls and lowering unemployment rolls. This bill, by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, will, in essence, do that.
We also take steps to conserve, not as many steps as this Senator would have liked to take. I appreciate the comments of the Senator from Hawaii and others, including Senator Dorgan, who spoke about the missed opportunities in this bill. They encouraged us to really step up for conservation measures and I agree. The Presiding Officer made some very appropriate and, I thought, discerning remarks about our missed opportunities for conservation. We have missed some opportunities, but there are still, in this bill, some very excellent conservation and research and development initiatives to be proud of.
I might remind the Democratic caucus, our No. 1 objective-not my No. 1 objective but the No. 1 objective of our Democratic caucus-was not to drill in ANWR. There is no drilling of ANWR in this bill. Other Democrats objected to more drilling off the coast of Florida. There is no more drilling off the coast of Florida in this bill. There were Democrats who objected to drilling in the Great Lakes. There is no drilling in the Great Lakes. So for those who wanted not only energy conservation but, in their view, environmental protections, this bill represents that compromise.
Let me say a word about natural gas because it is very important to Louisiana. Demand is exceeding supply and prices have been abnormally high for the better part of this year. The growing gap between demand and supply has been apparent for some time. Presently our demand is 22 trillion cubic feet annually. The Energy Information Administration projects that the demand will increase by over 50 percent by the year 2025. There is a naturally occurring abundance of natural gas. If we don't do something about producing more of this precious resource the gap between what we need and what we consume is only going to grow. We must act now. If we don't, the problem will continue to drive up prices and make our industries noncompetitive with industries in Europe and Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. Natural gas is at the heart of helping this Nation to secure and stabilize its employment sector.
In the short term, we provide royalty relief for ultra deep gas wells, something I worked on. I am proud that is in this bill. In the long term, the bill provides for the construction of a natural gas pipeline-a great deal of controversy. The bottom line is this pipeline could bring 65 trillion cubic feet into the market over the next 10 or 20 years. It is gas we need, gas we are going to use, and gas that will lower prices.
In addition to all of that, it is going to put several hundred thousand people to work. Whether you are in Alaska or other States, a lot of people could use jobs right now. This is a jobs bill.
Let me say a word about coal. We don't produce a lot of coal in Louisiana, but there are some States that do. I guess I have a great deal of sympathy for States that, like Louisiana, utilize their natural resources. West Virginia and Pennsylvania are natural resource-based States. Why shouldn't the people of those States get to use the natural resources they have to create jobs and to do it in a way that helps keep the environment clean?
We have some clean coal technology in this bill. It might not be perfect, but what is the alternative? Shut down all the coal mining in the country, put thousands of people out of work, and drive up energy prices? Let's use the technology and encourage the development of even better technology. We have over 250 years of coal reserves in this Nation. The people of our Nation deserve to use those reserves responsibly to their benefit.
I am proud that this bill includes some important renewable fuel standards. In addition to some of the other issues that have been discussed in this bill, we promote wind power. That is very exciting. You wouldn't imagine, though, that we are going to have some of the same interesting debates we have had over oil and gas production; that is, "not in my backyard." I want the energy, but I don't want to see the rigs.
I was quite amused by the fight that went on in Massachusetts or off the east coast about where we are going to put the windmills. People want wind power, but they don't want the windmills that produce the power. Unless our technology can put windmills underground and have the wind go underground, I don't know how we can avoid the aesthetics issue.
Since I am used to seeing oil rigs, I kind of like the way they look and most certainly enjoy fishing around them because they make excellent places to fish that we in Louisiana have understood now for quite some time. I am encouraging wind power and hope we won't have the same "not in my backyard" attitude that we have had about other ways to produce energy. Certainly, wind is a very interesting source of power and evidently something that we will never run out of. It is an endless supply.
We are encouraging wind power in this bill and solar energy which is quite exciting. I happened to visit some of the most outstanding solar institutes in the world, one of my last visits to Israel several years ago. I was very encouraged by the technology that is ready to come on the market with the right kind of encouragement and incentives. Many of these are in this bill. We can create new building materials that can lead the way to the 21st century.
This bill includes $300 hundred million for solar programs, several hundreds of millions of dollars for wind and energy production, and $500 million in grants for biomass programs. Biomass is another example of a new and exciting technology which takes other materials to create energy. It serves to move us to a more diverse portfolio of supply to produce the energy we need for our Nation.
Another important part of this bill is the increased authorization for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program. Being from Louisiana, a State that is hot most of the year, and that we have had a hard time explaining to people that you can die from heat as well as die from cold, we have not been able to get the low-income housing assistance program directed to Southern States. This bill accomplishes that. For Southern States, this is very important to help our people who pay high energy bills and need the air-conditioning, not for comfort but literally to keep them from dying or expiring in some of the hottest and most humid weather. We are very happy that this increased authorization is in this bill.
Finally, I know the chairman from New Mexico and the ranking member will work with us to put some real teeth in the freedom car proposal that the President has launched and I support. It is not strong enough in this bill, but, as I said, nothing will stop us from coming back and putting real time frames and real measures of success.
Mandates for hydrogen fuel cells in our Federal fleet could be added to this bill. But our clean schoolbus technology, some other things that are in this bill, make it, on balance, a very fine bill and one that this country needs.
Again, this is not a Democrat or a Republican bill. It is really a bill in which regional interests are at stake. But from the perspective of Louisiana and particularly in the South, places that produce a lot of energy, this bill gives us relief. It gives us hope that natural gas prices can be reduced. It produces jobs, and it helps us lower the unemployment rate as well as makes our country more energy self-sufficient.
For all of those reasons, I will give my vote and support to the bill.
I yield the floor.