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Blue Dog Coalition

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BLUE DOG COALITION

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Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Thank you very much. It is certainly a pleasure to be with both the gentleman from Louisiana, and for you as well, Mr. Melancon.

This is definitely a major, major priority as far as the future of this country is concerned. Our energy policy is interwoven directly into our vital national security. There is no question about it.

We have, for the past 50 years, progressively gotten more and more dependent on oil from the Middle East. There is a reason why Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, those Middle Eastern countries are so vital.

It is so important for us to try to hopefully find a way in which we can get peace in that region. We don't know the answer to all of this; it is largely going to be up to those Middle Eastern countries. But we are so directly tied to the future stability of that region, largely because of one thing, that is, our energy. And that has been a mistake, that we are tied to our future energy needs to the most unstable region in the world. And we now need to move very rapidly to excise ourselves from that.

The other reason why our energy policy is so vital and so important, and again, part and parcel of our national security, is because of global warming. Make no mistake about it, there may be differing opinions about global warming, there may be differing opinions about climate change, but one thing is certain, the facts do not lie. This Earth is getting warmer by the day, by the year.

Scientists have pointed out that the Earth's climate is increasing in warmth at a rate of one-tenth of a degree in each of the previous decades.

That may sound like a little. But when you look at just 2 degrees since the turn of the century, that is a major, major fact; the fact of dependency on oil in the Middle East, the most unstable region, the fact that we are experiencing the damage of global warming. The reason for the global warming is the excretion of carbon dioxides into the air, and that gives us the greenhouse effect.

So on those two points, we have no choice but to proceed directly ahead and provide the kind of sterling leadership this Nation deserves, as you so aptly pointed out, Mr. Matheson, in a very responsible way, in which both sides of the aisle can come together. Everybody can come together and understand that this is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is an issue for the future of the American people and the people of the world.

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Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Matheson, I would like to maybe pick up on a point you made on the diversity and alternative sources of energy. Let's just take one for a few moments and put this one on the table, because I truly believe that this is one of the major directions we are going to have to go in.

As you know, one of the problems with our dependence on oil and petroleum, aside from the Middle East and the political volatility there and the unstableness that is there, even if we had and were able to produce some of this oil on our own here, we have a refining problem. We are very short in our refining capacity.

It has been almost a quarter of a century since we even built a new refinery. There are reasons for that, environmental, people don't want them around, but they are not there. But that is another reason.

So, one of my interesting visits not long ago was to go down to South America, to Brazil, to visit Brazil. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Brazil was because I wanted to find out what they were doing and how they were doing it with their energy problem.

Here is one salient fact: Brazil and Argentina both are not dependent upon the Middle East for oil. They have moved very rapidly and are setting the curve for ethanol production.

Now, 85 percent of their automobiles are ``flex'' automobiles, in other words, running on a combination of mostly ethanol made from sugar cane.

If Brazil can do those two things, get clean energy, get ethanol, make it from a grown product that continually renews itself, and at the same time not be dependent on oil from the Middle East, surely we can learn something from what is going on in Brazil. And I did. A group of us went down to Brazil. We spent a lot of time down there. We talked to people and we found out some things there.

I believe, quite honestly, a major feature, not all of it, but a major feature of our way out and our way forward in becoming energy independent rests in the production in this country of ethanol.

Again, we have got to be very responsible as we move forward with ethanol production. We have got to have a level of moderation with it and we can't go overboard with it. It is very interesting that President Bush in his State of the Union, if you recall when he was talking about energy, mentioned it. He said we can solve our problem with ethanol made from corn, and he put some large figure out there.

But if we even just went with that, it would put such downward pressure on our food stock, on our cost of beef and poultry and chicken and pork, who feed off of corn. Corn cannot do it alone. So it has to be a dual approach with cellulosic, which is made out of pine straw and pine trees and wood chips and switch grass, which we have plenty of.

The point that I am making is we can move rapidly here, and we are. As a part of our farm bill that we will be marking up this week, that we are in the process of marking up, we and the Democrats and Blue Dogs, who make up a large part of the Agriculture Committee, are in the leadership on this, and it is one of the areas in which all of us can be very proud. But certainly within our Blue Dog Coalition, we are providing the leadership on finding a way out of our energy dependence, and we are doing it through our farm bill.

Just think, that we can grow our way out of dependence on oil in the Middle East. We have got all of it right here in this country, and I think getting the ethanol plants moving, using corn where we can, but there is a certain limit we have to have there, but use these other means of cellulosity, the wood chips, and putting the incentives in this package, as we have in the farm bill to explore and develop ethanol plants and plants of operation.

Also, we have to do it near the points of distribution. And in the process of creating this new industry, we create jobs when we create a clean energy source and that is one of the major steps I believe for us as we move towards energy independence.

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Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. I think you made a significant statement there, Mr. Matheson, that when you are in a deep hole, the first thing you do is stop digging.

I want to very, very briefly share, and I am sure there are some American people who are watching our discussion this evening, on just how serious a situation we are in. I talked about instability in the Middle East and our dependence upon oil.

Clearly there are two known facts. Right now, 42 percent of all of the known oil reserves rest under the basin in the Middle East, in Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. That is nearly half of all of the available oil supplies that we know of in the Earth. And it is not renewable. It doesn't renew itself. Eventually at some point oil is going to run out.

When I was at NATO, and we had a meeting over in Paris this past winter, our winter NATO meetings, a question was put to a noted economist, John Malone, and he made a profound statement. He said we didn't leave the stone age because we ran out of stone; nor will we leave the oil age because we have run out of oil. What he said was that civilization as we know it could very well run out before the oil runs out with the rapid rate we are going with the damage that oil-driven energy sources around the world are causing with the greenhouse effects.

I thought it would be very interesting to share with the American people just how serious this is given the fact that oil is not a renewable source of energy, given the fact that almost half of it is in a very unstable region, and much of the world is still depending upon. But according to the Energy Information Administration, here are some startling facts. They say that world daily oil consumption is projected to grow by 1.4 million barrels this year in 2007 and by 1.6 million barrels in 2008. That is daily oil consumption. You talk about running out with that rapid rate, and each year it goes up. In addition, the EIA projects a steady increase in natural gas and electric use in the United States which will create upward pressure on prices. This doesn't paint a very good picture.

And then it goes on to say that almost all scientists agree that the Earth's climate is rapidly changing and getting warmer, having increased by 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit since the turn of the century. Now as I mentioned earlier, on the surface of it, 2.6 doesn't seem like much, but it is major. The Earth's global average temperature is now approaching or possibly has passed, according to this report, the warmest experience since human civilization began over 12,000 years ago. Now it is approaching the warmest it has ever been in the history of mankind. Global warming is a fact. Climate change is a fact.

And it goes on to say that over the past 150 years, measured carbon dioxide concentrations have risen by more than one-third. The question is not whether greenhouse gases will result in climate change, but rather the magnitude, the speed, and the geographic details and the likelihood of impacts stemming from this trend.

I am not painting a gloom and doom picture here. We are talking about facts so we can get a sense, a greater sense of urgency in this Congress and in the world. So many places over in the world we are fighting and killing one another over what could very well be in the scheme of things very trivial. We are all in the same bucket as human beings.

This earth of ours is precious, and for no other reason more important than saving this earth for our future generations, the air we breathe all rests in the decisions that we make in this Congress today.

I know and I share the same feeling with you all that we feel very honored and very privileged to be elected and serving in Congress at a time when this is our challenge. And when they write the history books and perhaps our grandchildren and children will look and say, well, what did grand-daddy or my daddy do at that time, the history books will reflect very proudly that we provided the leadership at a very crucial time to move this Nation forward in getting away from oil dependency and getting into clean energies.

We have the means to do it. We know we need to do it, and we have the direction to do it.

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Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Thank you very much. I think in addition to the plans and the points that we have offered here, there's the other side of this that we have got to face, and that is human behavior. We've got to provide leadership to change human behavior when it comes basically to the one instrument that is causing so much of the pollution, that is causing the earth to get warmer. That is the automobile, and we have to move on both fronts. We have to move on the front of getting the American people to do, and we can do this if we use our policy right, if we use our incentives right.

One is that we need to provide encouragement and incentives for individuals to get out of their automobiles, to use other means of transportation, especially in our large urban areas.

Let me tell you about my region of the country that I represent which is Atlanta. The Atlanta area has one of the highest carbon dioxide emissions area in this country, and with that is traffic congestion, which is about to choke the great promise of our city, not only in our region, not only in terms of the traffic but the air we breathe.

So we have got to move and provide the leadership to get alternative means of transportation moving people from place to place without such great dependency on the automobile. Just think about the time and productivity and hours that's a waste in the human productivity of sitting in traffic jams, let alone the waste of energy and the idling of the motors just in the traffic jams alone. We can't continue that way. We've got to do things.

Commuter rail is one of the areas that we are working. That's hard. It's hard to get people out of their automobiles, but it might be good policy for us to move to an area of good Federal tax dollars being used as incentives to be able to give people opportunities to get on these commuter rails. Perhaps we ride for free. Perhaps they're down in a subsidized cost. We've got to do something.

In Europe and in France and throughout Europe and in Japan, they have got trains now that are zipping people along at 100. They have got one over in Asia and Japan somewhere that's going about 150, 160 miles an hour. Where would we be without the rapid commuter rail systems we have in the northeast? Can you imagine if we didn't have it? You think traffic is bad between New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. Just think it what it would be like if we didn't have those systems.

So there are ways in which we've got to do that.

The other thing is; and I am not saying, I know how hard it is, I love my car. We are a society in a culture in America that has just grown up with the automobile. It's a part of us from the drive-ins to all the things that we associate with the good life. Get a home, get a car. You are in America.

But maybe, in addition to getting them out of those cars with incentives and the commuter rail and other means, maybe we can do something with the car itself. They are doing some things, American ingenuity is already at work in New York. The Ford Motor Company is now putting together an electric car. They are already out there. We have moved, and I think we are moving with the proposal in this Congress, to give an incentive, to give a tax write-off, tax benefit, some help, for people who will buy cars that run on the batteries and electricity. They have this.

I think there is a lot more we can do, in changing the habits of the American people, changing to get them out of the automobiles, and then changing the nature of the automobiles themselves, and then, of course, getting the clean sort of renewable energy we can to put them in. These are the kinds of proposals and approaches that I think this issue calls for, and I think it's the way forward in the future.

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Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. The one area we did not mention, because we need to, because it's going to play a very important role in the future, that's nuclear, nuclear energy. I know when you mention the words nuclear energy, folks get a little shaky, but that's an education job, that's a leadership job. But nuclear energy is reliable, it's low cost, everywhere we have the safety necessary, there's a licensing process that we go through, there are all kinds of features there. But nuclear energy is very, very important, it's going to play a very important role, and we have got to invest in it.

Finally, I have got to say, I think in reminding a great historian once said, on the bleached bones of many past civilizations are written those pathetic words, too late. Let us hope and let us know for sure with the action we are taking in this Congress that they will not be able to say that about our civilization on this energy and global warming. We are not going to move too late.


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