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Energy Policy

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Location: Washington, DC


ENERGY POLICY -- (House of Representatives - June 23, 2008)

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Mr. WITTMAN of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, as I drove around the district today, I got to speak to a number of folks, in fact, even over the weekend; and the number one issue their work. And they also have to deal with that as they commute to take their families, whether it's to school or whether it's to after-school activities for their children. It's really putting a crimp in their budgets, and they are very, very concerned.

As I drive through the district, I get to see the price of gas each day, and it ranges anywhere from $4.10 a gallon up in the Washington metro area down to $3.83 a gallon down in the Tappahannock area. So I know the range of fuel prices in the district, know where the best places are to buy fuel. But it's still extraordinarily expensive for people. And that really makes it difficult on them. It really puts a crimp in their budgets. It creates challenges for them, and it creates hardships for them. And that's something that they say, Why isn't Congress acting? Why aren't you coming up with a solution for these real problems that we have to deal with day in and day out?

And it's frustrating for them. They watch a Congress that really kind of stumbles and doesn't do anything. And I can understand their frustration and understand why they are frustrated with us.

You know, I would like to relate a couple of different stories.

Earlier in the district, I spoke with some folks in the Fredericksburg area,

the Sherman family, and they run a small business, and they rely on diesel trucks in their business. And they said, ROB, we bought diesel trucks for a specific reason. We bought them because of the hauling that we have to do, and diesels are more economical as far as hauling and heavy work. And diesel fuel, when they first bought those vehicles, was less than gasoline. And now we know today diesel is significantly more expensive than gasoline, and they're frustrated. They said, We made that decision. We made that decision based on good business sense, and now today their business is being affected by that.

In fact, they're having to park their trucks, and it's cutting into their business. So not only is it costing them more to operate, but they also have to make up for that by parking trucks, which reduces the amount of business that they're able to do and affects their bottom line. So not only are they in a situation of having to deal with higher fuel prices, but their margins get pressed, and they do less business because of these higher fuel prices. And they said, ROB, we can't stand that for very long. This really is going to affect what they're able to do.

So we don't have businesses that are growing. We have businesses that are retracting, and they're asking me, ROB, what are you going to do? Why isn't the Congress coming up with a sensible energy policy? And why isn't there a sense of urgency?

You know, folks are saying, look, this is something that affects us day in and day out. We want to feel like Congress has a sense of urgency and is going to Washington to get things done. And they don't want us to sit by idle. They are tired of words. They want action, and I can't blame them.

You know, we have the opportunity to work together to develop a comprehensive energy policy that provides relief to consumers for these high gas and diesel fuel prices and also addresses the issue of our reliance on foreign oil.

A lady today told me she had a great analogy, and I think it's perfect. She said, ROB, did you ever see the movie ``Apollo 13?'' And I said, yes, I did. She reminded me of a scene there where, as the command module and the service module were going to the moon, there was an explosion in one of the oxygen tanks there, and it damaged the primary oxygen tank, which was there to fuel the rocket to send it to the moon. So, obviously, they cut that trip short. But then all the members of the crew, the three members had to move to the command module, and the command module wasn't designed for them to stay in there. You know, those command modules had scrubbers to take out carbon dioxide, these lithium oxide scrubbers, and they weren't designed to keep folks alive for 4 days.

So what happened? They called back to mission control, and the folks in mission control went to the engineers, and they went together and they put together all the pieces of equipment that they had on board in both the service and command modules, and they put it in a box and they took it in the room with the engineers, and they dumped those items on the table, and they said, come up with a solution to the problem. And they gave them a very specific time limit because obviously their oxygen was going to run out. And those engineers took that time and they came up with an idea, and they solved that problem which assured that those astronauts got back to Earth alive.

That's the same sort of spirit of ingenuity to solve problems that we need to bear with this energy problem. We can do it. We've seen that. We've seen that American ingenuity come to light. We've seen it solve problems, and we know with this particular situation we can put together a comprehensive energy policy that includes everything. We need to put everything in that box, just like those Apollo engineers did, and put it on the table and say let's develop a comprehensive energy policy for this country.

And again, it has to include everything. We have to make sure that we look at domestic sources of energy, again to create energy independence, and looking at our refining capacity to make sure that meets our future needs.

You know, we have vast resources here of energy. We need to make sure that we bring those things to the table, whether it's oil shale out west, oil sands, oil and natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf. And we can do those things, and we can do those things in an environmentally sound manner. We have the technology to do that to make sure that we don't harm the environment, at the same time creating energy independence for this country. And we do have that ability. Whether it's in ANWR, whether it's offshore, or oil sands, or oil shales, we need to be doing that.

You know, we haven't constructed a refinery in this country in over 30 years. We need to do that. We have the ability to do that. We have the ability to create and build environmentally sensitive refineries and develop our energy here in environmentally sensitive ways.

You know, at the same time, it's critical that we encourage the development of clean energy sources, again, all different parts of the puzzle, and we need to bring those pieces together. We need to look at clean energy sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal power. The technology is there. The technology is really developing at this particular point. We need to make sure that we enhance that, that we encourage that.

You know, environmentally friendly power production needs to be part of our portfolio, too, in addition to conservation. You know, I think we all agree that development of our domestic sources has to be part of the puzzle, but we can't take that off the table. It has to be part of what we do in this suite of available resources that we have to solve our energy problems here and to come up with a comprehensive energy policy.

You know, it's that energy policy that's going to determine the health of our economy in years to come. We have to conserve. We have to look at alternative and renewable sources of energy. We have to look at the existing sources that we have here. We have to look at nuclear power. We have to look at every available means to make sure that this country can meet its energy needs and to create energy independence.

You know, we have to really ramp up the effort for research and development, not only of these resources, but of conservation and of other sources of energy. And we have to do that aggressively, in addition to aggressively pursuing the sources of energy that we have already. And we can incentivize conservation, and we can make sure that we encourage the use of more energy efficient equipment, in addition to developing our domestic sources.

So, again, we have to look at an across-the-board comprehensive energy policy and realize that there's no silver bullet for increasing gas prices. You can't just say we're going to do one thing and that's going to create a solution to this problem. We have to, just as the Apollo 13 engineers did, put everything on the table, put everything in that box, and then put that on the table for us to solve these issues.

But the American people are looking for Congress to take clear-cut action to try to solve this problem, and they expect us to work to come up with that policy. They expect us to hear them, to literally feel their pain, and to make sure that we get things done here. They want to make sure that we're investing in these clean sources, in addition to investing and making sure that we develop the sources that we have here in our continental United States.

And you know, we should not cut off resources within our borders. I mean, we have that available. We don't see other countries throughout the world saying, well, we have these resources and we're not going to use them. And you know, we're in a world economy where we're competing against those other nations, and those other nations are buying energy abroad. They're developing their own sources. If we are going to compete with those economies, we cannot neglect the resources that we have here. We have to make sure that we have those resources available for us just to be able to compete.

I know there's some folks that say, well, you know, that's not going to come on line for 2, 3, 4, 15, 20 years down the road. Well, we need to do this now because it does have an effect on price. We all talk about speculation in the market, and speculation is based on the expected supply, and if the expected supply goes up because the United States develops its own sources, that will have an effect on prices, in addition to the effect on prices that conservation and other alternative sources will have. So we can multiply that effect if we make sure that we don't take anything off the table in developing this energy policy.

And you know, as I said, I know that we as Members of Congress have an obligation to act, and the American people demand that we act, and they demand that we take a comprehensive look at what we do to address these energy needs, and we come up with a comprehensive energy policy.

You know, we had the opportunity years ago when we went through an energy crisis to develop a policy, and we didn't. Now, we have a renewed opportunity to do that and do what's best for the American people. They demand it. They tell me every day the things that I need to be doing as a Congress Member, and they say, look, you and your colleagues need to be doing that across the board.

So I think we need to make sure that we're cognizant of what the demand is and what the requirement is from the American public on what we should be doing here, and that's a comprehensive energy policy that includes everything.

Again, we need to take that Apollo 13 box, dump it out there, and say let's have at it, let's create a comprehensive energy policy that ensures the long-term economic viability of this country.

I can tell you, we can no longer afford to wait, and my constituents demand that as well of every other Member of Congress. Now is the time to create a comprehensive energy policy, taking all the tools that we have.

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