CRAIG THOMAS RURAL HOSPITAL AND PROVIDER EQUITY ACT -- (Senate - June 14, 2007)
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Mr. SALAZAR. Madam President, while my colleagues are seeing if they can work out the objection, let me proceed to speak about this amendment.
The amendment I hope to call up is amendment No. 1572, and it is an amendment which is part of----
Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, if the Senator will yield.
Mr. SALAZAR. I yield.
Mr. ALEXANDER. The Senator has a worthy amendment of which I am proud to be a cosponsor. At the moment we are checking with Senator Domenici, so if at this point the Senator wishes to speak to his amendment and give us a few minutes, we would appreciate that.
Mr. SALAZAR. That will be fine. I appreciate the Senator from Tennessee and his leadership, not only on these issues, but also on park issues and so many other issues that he has spent a long career working on in behalf of our country.
The amendment No. 1572, which I have introduced with my colleagues Senator Bayh, Senator Alexander, Senator Lieberman, Senator Brownback, Senator Coleman, Senator Cantwell, Senator Lincoln, Senator Clinton, and Senator Biden, is an important amendment to move us forward in our vision of energy independence and to set America free from the addiction we have on imported oil. The amendment we have here is part of the DRIVE Act, which is sponsored by a group of 26 Senators, a true bipartisan coalition which has wanted to move forward in our efforts to set America free from our addiction to foreign oil.
The DRIVE electric amendment will make better use of the electricity in the transportation sector by spurring development and deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and by promoting oil savings at key transportation hubs, including airports and truckstops. The amendment we are offering today will move us toward our oil savings targets included in this bill by making better use of electric in the transportation sector.
Currently, it is our cars, trucks, boats, planes, and trains which account for about two-thirds of the Nation's oil consumption. The easiest way to save oil and reduce our dependence on imports is to first improve the efficiency of our vehicles, which we are doing in the underlying bill in a number of ways, especially by raising the CAFE standards and helping manufacturers refuel their vehicle fleets; secondly, by replacing the oil-based fuels that power our vehicles with energy from other sources.
The amendment we are offering today will help substitute electric for oil in the transportation sector in two ways. First, this amendment encourages commonsense oil-saving electrification measures at truckstops, ports, and airports. Our amendment directs the Secretary of Energy, in coordination with the Secretary of Transportation and EPA, to create a revolving loan and grant program to support the electrification of these transportation hubs.
You would be surprised at how much oil we can save through these simple measures. For example, truckers must rest 10 hours after driving for 11 hours. When they do this, they often park at truckstops, leaving their engines idling to power heaters, air-conditioners, TVs, or refrigerators. This overnight idling by long-haul trucks consumes around 20 million barrels of oil per year. The solution is very simple: You simply give truckers the option of plugging their trucks into an electrical outlet to power their systems while they are stopped at these truck stops. The EPA today estimates that this measure alone would save around $3,240 in fuel costs per truck parking space per year. We can take similar measures at airports and seaports to improve efficiency of handling cargo, refrigerating goods, and powering vehicles. Our amendment helps transportation hubs make these oil- and cost-saving investments.
The second way in which our amendment improves the use of electricity in the transportation sector is through the development and deployment of plug-in hybrid and electric drive technologies.
The National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO recently conducted a simulation to assess the capabilities of plug-in hybrid electric technology. The simulation showed that a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle fleet with modest technological capabilities would double the fuel economy of a conventional fleet, with less than half the energy costs per mile.
Detroit is on the cusp of offering these plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to consumers across the Nation and across the world. Some of the prototypes are far more advanced than those which NREL studied and would get over 100 miles to the gallon, with energy cost to the consumer that is equivalent to around 75 cents per gallon of gas. These plug-in hybrid vehicles are a building block of our new energy economy, and we should be doing more to push these technologies out the door. Americans will benefit from these plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with lower costs and reduced emissions.
While the underlying bill would allow for basic and applied energy storage research, the amendment we are proposing would also establish an electric drive transportation research and development program. That program would stimulate research into high-efficiency onboard and offboard charging components, high-power and energy-efficient drivetrain systems, powertrain development and integration, the use of advanced materials technology, and several other areas that are key to getting electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the American consumer.
Our amendment will also help prepare utility companies to handle the added load these new vehicles will place on the electrical grid. We have directed the Secretary of Energy and EPA to work with the utilities to develop low-cost, simple methods of using off-peak electricity and better managing on-peak use to support a growing fleet of electric drive vehicles.
These investments in research and preparation of our electrical grid will usher in an era when all assumptions about how we power our cars and trucks will change. We will see oil consumption, emissions, and costs fall, and we will see a new way of innovation and design, with American engineers leading the charge.
So that America gets out front on the development of this electric drive revolution, we are creating a nationwide education program for electric drive transportation technology. The amendment will provide financial assistance to create new university-level degree programs for needed engineers, support student plug-in hybrid electric vehicle competitions, and promote other educational initiatives. We believe American minds can and should power this electric drive revolution so that our best and brightest are delivering the next generation of American cars to consumers.
I am proud of how far we have already come on the Energy bill that is before us today. Chairman Bingaman and Senator Domenici, along with the leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Commerce Committee, and the Finance Committee, have done yeoman's labor over the last 5 months to get us to where we are today.
The DRIVE Act electric amendment will magnify the positive impacts of this bill and accelerate the arrival of a clean energy future in which all Americans can access plug-in hybrid technologies that save them gas and money.
I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment which, again, has the cosponsorship of Senator Lieberman, Senator Brownback, Senator Coleman, Senator Cantwell, Senator Lincoln, Senator Clinton, Senator Biden, and my colleague from Tennessee, Senator Alexander.
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