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Public Statements

Energy Policy Act of 2003-Conference Report-Continued

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2003-CONFERENCE REPORT-CONTINUED

Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, I have listened very carefully to the distinguished Senator from West Virginia and his characterization of this legislation. I have to come to a different conclusion because I believe this legislation before us today is a first giant step. We have been talking about this now for not months but years. I can tell you right now that the problem we are having with energy in America is a very serious problem.

I am from a State that is a production State. We have produced shallow and marginal wells for a long period of time. Sometimes people don't realize how significant this source of energy is. Statistically this is true: If we had all of the marginal wells that have been plugged in the last year flowing today, it would equal more than we are currently importing from Saudi Arabia. That is a huge amount.

I started out, before most of the people in this Chamber were born, in the industry, in the oil business. I was a tool dresser on a cable tool rig. That is the way we used to go after oil, particularly shallow oil, where you would have to take a bit out. You would stand with it, white hot, and sledgehammers on both sides, sharpen it, and then go back and pound. We pulled a lot of oil out of the ground at that time.

If you think about the economy that resulted from all that production, there were good jobs. In the Osage area of my State of Oklahoma, northeastern Oklahoma, we had a lot of shallow wells. I can remember going in to Pawhuska, OK, at noontime to eat lunch. You would have to wait in line 15 minutes to pay your bill. It was because this industry was so viable. Today it is almost a ghost town.

With the passage of this bill, there are incentives in here. Nobody talks about them. There are some things I wish were in this bill. No one is more familiar with the necessity to get into some of the drilling at ANWR, and certainly we need to be doing that. But just look at some of the opportunities that are in the bill.

This bill has an incentive to get back into marginal well production, and that could open up a huge domestic supply of oil and lessen our reliance upon foreign countries. That reminds me of something I often say: Our reliance upon foreign countries for our oil supply is not an energy issue. It is a national security issue.

I remember back many years ago, during the Reagan administration, when Don Hodel was Secretary of Energy and later Secretary of the Interior. He and I had a little dog and pony show. We would go around the country and talk to them about how the outcome of every conflict, every war back to and including the First World War was dependent on who was in control of the energy supply. We talked about the Malay Peninsula. We talked about the submarines coming into the Caribbean to knock down the ships so we could not get to our refineries.

This is something I thought surely people would understand. They didn't understand it. By the way, the fact that we are looking at an energy policy today, this should not really be a partisan issue. I kind of laugh when I hear some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle saying we don't need an energy policy. I tried to get Ronald Reagan to have an energy policy. He didn't do it. I tried with the first President Bush. I said: Let's get an energy policy. Let's have, as a cornerstone of that policy, a maximum amount that we are willing to depend on foreign countries for our ability to fight a war. He didn't do it. We didn't do it during the Clinton administration. But this President is.

I talked to this President when he was running for office. I said: Will you commit to an energy policy so we can lessen our dependence on foreign countries for our ability to fight a war? Back when Don Hodel and I were going around, we were 38-percent dependent upon foreign countries. Now it is approaching 60 percent. So it is very serious.

Why is it people wouldn't realize that after the Persian Gulf War in 1991, why wouldn't it be indelibly imprinted upon the hearts of every American that we could no longer be dependent upon the Middle East for our ability to fight a war? Yet it didn't seem to help. We picked up a few extra votes but not enough to get a real policy.

I chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. There are a lot of issues that are within the jurisdiction of my committee that are very significant and that are in this bill. One is, it allows hydraulic fracturing to be used by not just Oklahoma but by all States. This is a way of extracting oil out of tight formations. It is something we need to be addressing. It is addressed in this bill.

This clarifies the exemption for oil and gas production from storm water discharge permits. Congress provided this exemption years ago, and a misinterpretation of the exemption had threatened to stop a lot of the small, local production. This clarifies that and will get us back into producing.

This provides a 5 billion gallon ethanol requirement for motor fuel. If anyone ever says there is is not enough renewable energy in this bill, they have not really read this title of the bill. I started working on this issue over 5 years ago, and I am glad to see that a compromise was developed to increase the amount of renewables while ensuring that our Nation's refineries are not adversely affected.

In my committee, we had the renewal of the Price-Anderson bill. We passed it. It is now a part of this bill. So a lot of the things that would otherwise have been on individual bills or have been on a comprehensive bill from my committee are in this bill.

It is necessary to have reauthorization of Price-Anderson in order to provide the protections so we can go after the other sources of oil such as nuclear sources. This establishes a nuclear security program. I think we all, after 9/11, recognize that.

In the committee I chair, we had all the security bills. We had a wastewater security bill. We had a nuclear security bill. We had a chemical security bill. They are all there for the purpose of protecting those vital elements of our economy from a potential terrorist attack. We went ahead and put the nuclear security bill in this. If we don't pass this, it is going to certainly heighten the risk that is out there on something happening to a nuclear plant. So after a lot of effort, we finally have that in here.

This bill provides $300 million for the EPA's clean schoolbus program, another one that came out of my committee.

I am saying there is a lot more to this bill. It doesn't go far enough. I can't look at the lovely acting President in the chair without thinking about ANWR and about going up there. I just wish people who are so concerned about disrupting the environment or something up there in those slopes would go up and look at it. It is not a pristine wilderness. It is a mud flat. All the local people want it.

Here we are down here-we are a lot smarter here in Washington-saying no, in spite of the fact it would alleviate some of our reliance upon foreign countries for our ability to fight a war. We are smarter than they are up in Alaska. We know what is good for them in spite of what they want.

I am very proud of both Senators from the State of Alaska for understanding this, for explaining it. I feel sorry for them that we have such arrogance in this body that we feel we know more about their business than they do.

Our Nation is at the point where access is prohibited to almost every major reserve of oil and gas on our Nation's shores. Furthermore, extremist environmentalists have declared war on oil and gas wells in the interior of our Nation.

I have had occasion, as I am sure the manager of this bill, Senator Domenici, has had numerous occasions to debate people on the other side. We know we have a crisis in energy in this country. Yet there are those on the other side who say: We don't want nuclear energy. We don't want fossil fuels. We don't want oil. We don't want coal. Now they don't even want windmills because they will disturb some migratory bird path.

We have to have it. Look at the flight of industry and business that is going overseas. Right now we have chemical companies that fear they are going to end up not being able to use coal as a source of energy, one that we are depending upon for more than 50 percent of our energy in America today. They have gone over into other countries such as western Europe where they have nuclear energy, where some of the countries, 80 percent of their energy comes from nuclear sources.

This bill is a modest start. But if we don't do this, after being rejected since 1980 and before having an energy policy in America, this crisis we are facing right now is going to be even more serious. It is a modest beginning and one on which certainly, at the very least-I say this to the Republicans-we should at least have a chance procedurally to have an up-or-down vote.

Let's remember what we went through last week for some 39 hours. The big debate there was, let's just get to the point where we can have an up-or-down vote. That is all we want on this, an up-or-down vote. I would hope that some of those individuals who may not be in support of this legislation will at least vote to allow us to have that up-or-down vote.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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