CREATING LONG-TERM ENERGY ALTERNATIVES FOR THE NATION ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - June 20, 2007)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I strongly support the important legislation under consideration. Like many of the bills the Senate has taken up this year, it is the product of Democrats and Republicans working together, and I commend its authors for their hard work.
The bill before us does the things the Nation must do to become more energy self-reliant, starting with raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Over 30 years ago I cosponsored Scoop Jackson's legislation which first established fuel economy standards to improve the fuel efficiency of automobiles. Unfortunately, very little progress has been made since then.
There is no silver bullet for ending our dependence on foreign oil or slowing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, but raising CAFE standards is the single most important step we can take to make positive changes in this area. Increasing the average efficiency of passenger cars by just over 5 miles per gallon would eliminate the need for American oil imports from the Persian Gulf. The CAFE provision the Commerce Committee reported will increase fuel economy in cars from 27.5 miles a gallon to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. It is the best chance this Congress will have to raise fuel economy standards, and I hope that the Senate will preserve the Commerce Committee's strong provisions.
The bill will make more cars capable of running on biofuels. Ethanol, in particular, has incredible promise as a biofuel, and it will emit far less carbon dioxide than conventional oil. The bill will ramp up production of biofuels over the next 15 years and mandate that a growing number of new vehicles be able to run on these kinds of fuels. It also provides funding to ensure that these new biofuels can reach fuel stations across the country. This provision is particularly important to New England, which has just one E85 pump located in Chelsea, MA. Brazil has shown us the way by producing ethanol from sugarcane in amounts equivalent to 300,000 barrels of oil each day. The United States must invest in biofuels, so that we too can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The bill also reauthorizes the Weatherization Assistance Program, which is especially important for low-income families struggling with high energy costs throughout the Nation. In Massachusetts, energy costs are among the highest in the Nation, but this program has weatherized more than 10,000 homes in the last decade. Vulnerable families can't afford to make these expensive improvements themselves, so these wise investments by the government will help families save on energy and reduce the Nation's fossil fuel emissions.
Another critical issue is the inclusion of a strong renewable electricity standard. The RES will provide the certainty the renewable energy market needs to invest in innovative technologies. In April, Senators DURBIN, SNOWE, and REID led a bipartisan letter expressing support for mandating that major utilities generate a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. I was one of the 50 Senators who signed the letter, and I commend Chairman Bingaman for his work on a renewable electricity standard.
I also commend the Finance Committee for its work to provide tax incentives for renewable energy technology, and repealing tax breaks for oil and gas companies. While most Americans are seeing less and less in their paychecks, the Big Oil companies are making money hand over fist. During the first quarter of this year, Big Oil reaped $29.5 billion in profits. Repealing these tax breaks will save taxpayers billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil and allow the Nation to invest in clean energy technologies.
Last week, I joined Senator Salazar, Senator Smith and several other Senators in urging the Finance Committee to extend tax incentives for fuel cell technology. Hydrogen fuel cells are an energy storage technology, like batteries, that can deliver clean and reliable power. They have a broad range of uses for vehicles, auxiliary power units, and electronic devices, and they are helping us diversify our fuel supply and find better ways to deliver clean energy. Massachusetts is among the world's major centers of this technology, with more than 60 companies involved in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. I commend Chairman Baucus and the Finance Committee for allowing tax credits for this important technology.
Overall, this bill brings us closer to a cleaner and more secure energy future for our nation, and I look forward to its enactment.
Mr. President, I yield back the remaining time.