AMERICAN HOUSING RESCUE AND FORECLOSURE PREVENTION ACT OF 2008--Continued -- (Senate - July 10, 2008)
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Mr. GRASSLEY. We are all aware of the impact rising energy costs have had on Americans and our economy. Every home and business in America has seen energy costs skyrocket. That is true with the price of home heating oil, electricity generated from natural gas or the gasoline and diesel for our cars and trucks, and probably a lot of other energy uses and sources of energy you could throw in there as well. These costs permeate through our economy by driving up costs for the transportation and production of food, to the manufacturing and industrial sectors of our economy. Obviously, those hurt most are the families who feel it in their pocketbooks when they pay their utility bills, fill their cars or trucks to get to work or take their kids to school, or even buy groceries. They do not have the ability to pass it on, as do people in the middle of the chain.
A key component of a strong and vibrant economy is reliable and affordable energy. For businesses to grow, for productivity to increase, we need more energy. And in the process of more energy, I mean more sources of energy, but I do not preclude any way we can save energy, and an ethic to save energy as well.
It is a fact of life that each American generation has lived better than the predecessor generation, and my generation and the next generation and the next generation expects to live a little better than the previous generation. That is the American dream; that is the American way. It is not going to happen if we do not have affordable energy. To have affordable energy, it is as simple as economics 101: when the price is high, with an increased supply, the price will go down.
So all of this means that we need to use energy not only more but more efficiently. It also means you cannot rely just on fossil fuels. God only made so much of that. We need to develop alternative and renewable sources of energy. But renewable energy and energy efficiency are only a part of the solution. I guess I would say that when you talk about energy, you talk about three: No. 1, more sources of present fossil fuels; No. 2, alternative energy--and for a guy like me from corn country, I am not talking only about ethanol, but biodiesel, biomass, wind. I happened to sponsor, 15 years ago, the wind energy tax credit that now exists and which has brought vibrant wind energy to a lot of the Midwest. And also, lastly, conservation. I am talking about not only a Government policy on conservation which we have in place in the sense of a tax incentive for fuel-efficient cars and also tax incentives for energy-efficient home appliances, to name two, but there is a personal ethic of more conservation that we are seeing in America right now. The latest figures I know of are March 2008 versus March 2007. Because of the increased price of gasoline, we drove 5 percent less miles this March than a year ago, and that is the largest decrease or greatest decrease in energy use since energy was this high on an inflationary basis back in 1979.
So Americans are conserving price, they are conserving when they buy these fuel cell cars where you get the tax credit. But it cannot only be conservation. And too often I hear in this body: Do not drill; conserve.
You have to do drilling and you have to do conserving. But you also have to have that third factor, which is very popular with a person like me, alternative energy, because alternative energy, in the case of ethanol as an example, is good for farmers, is good for the environment, and it is good for jobs in rural America. We never thought we would have these kinds of jobs where we set up a refinery in rural America to make alternative energy. It is good for our national security, and it is good for our economic security. So you have to have a broad base.
One area in which we have done little, though, to help ourselves is the developing of domestic sources of traditional energy. For too many years, we have shunned the use of domestic affordable coal and we have hindered the expansion of our domestic nuclear energy. Why would we do that when France gets 80 percent of its energy from nuclear? Why would we not have the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel when they do it in other countries to reduce the necessity of finding a storage place for it to such a great extent as we have in this country?
What is it that people, young people, would come to my office last fall and say: We ought to stop using coal. Well, when you generate 55 percent of your electricity on average from coal, what do they expect--that we should not have lights, we should not have electric motors on our air-conditioning, et cetera? Where do they get ideas like that?
There is something wrong when there is not some reality to what the energy situation is in this country and you should not use coal and you should not use nuclear energy. Where does that sort of thought take you? It does not meet the commonsense test that we would establish in the Midwest of something being a good idea or a bad idea.
As a result of our policies here in Washington, we have driven the exponential demand for clean-burning natural gas and pushed our oil dependancy to nearly 60 percent. Yet we have done very little to increase the supply of energy to meet new demand because of an attitude of ``no drill, no drill.''
What is the sense of paying $140 for a barrel of oil, sending it over to some Arab nation where they are going to train terrorists to kill us because they do not like us? It would be better to keep that $140 here in the United States. It would be good for our economy. It would be better for our national defense. It would be better all around.
It is intellectually dishonest to talk about the offensively high prices of home heating fuel or $4 gasoline for our cars while also opposing every effort to increase the supply of home heating oil and natural gas that would lower these prices, a la economics 101: if you increase supply, the price goes down. It seems to me that some of my colleagues whom I listen to here--the very same ones who are blaming high gasoline prices on the Bush administration are the very same ones who do not want to drill. It does not add up. That is why I say it is intellectually dishonest. It is disingenuous to clamor about the cost of crude oil and gasoline while ignoring half of the law of supply and demand.
Members of this body continue to point out the outrageous burden to our citizens because of high energy costs. I would suggest that some should look closely at the votes they cast that limited the development of our domestic resources. We have a responsibility here in Congress to address the underlying causes of high energy costs. That includes increasing energy efficiency, producing alternatives and renewables, and developing domestic traditional sources. In other words, let me get back to the three-finger rule: No 1, more drilling; No. 2, Government incentives for alternative energy; No. 3, Government incentives for conservation and also what individuals can do in conservation.
I point out something that is just irrational, irrational right here on Capitol Hill. I saw it--let's see, what time was it today? It was 11 o'clock. I was out on the steps to meet with members of the Iowa FFA, the Future Farmers of America, the leaders who are here to study leadership and to learn about the political process. Lined up across this new brick area out here east of the Capitol were a whole bunch of black SUVs idling, parked and idling. Why can't we have an ethic on Capitol Hill, whether it is Ambassadors who are coming up here, whether it is the Vice President coming up here, or whether it is our own elected leaders who have chauffeur-driven cars, to turn off the cars? If you want to stay cool, come in this building and save the $4 gas. We have to promote some leadership on conservation here, and it can start right here with the Federal Government. I do not know who owns those black SUVs. I got a couple of license plates I am going to look up. But we can set an ethic here.
But you have to have all three of these, and conservation is one of them. You can have tax incentives for conservation, but you can also do a lot of personal conservation. Even with my own staff sometimes, you drive up to park to go into a town meeting, and they sit there for 10 seconds before they turn off the ignition. I have learned to reach over and turn it off just as soon as the car has come to a complete stop or even just a little bit before.
Another problem we have in this country is the United States is the only country I am aware of that is choosing not to drill where we know oil and gas exist.
How many times have we heard on the Senate floor: There is only 13 billion barrels of oil in Alaska. It is going to take 10 years to access and get it down here. It is not going to make any difference.
That is not supposed to be a big deal? If that isn't a big deal, how come just within the last year they found 5 or 6 billion barrels of oil offshore of Brazil, and it was a big deal, a big deal from the standpoint of energy efficiency for Brazil? And it was a big point for enhancing the inventory of known oil supplies worldwide because, just like money is fungible, oil is fungible. Wherever you find another drop of oil, it has some impact on the inventory. It has some impact on supply. So it ought to be just as big or twice as big of a deal because we have 13 billion barrels of oil in Alaska, as an example.
Isn't this silly? Here in the United States, these lower 48, we have Mexico south of us, Canada north of us. They are doing everything they can to find every drop of oil they can; in Canada, getting it out of the tar sands. Yet what is unique about the United States? We are part of North America. We are right in the middle of North America. North and south of us is every attempt to get every drop of energy they can but not here. Isn't there something wrong with us when we take that attitude? But while you take that attitude, it is OK to ask the Saudis for more oil. It is OK to ask to be dependent on countries such as Iran and Venezuela for our economic security. It is OK to send $140 a barrel over there. But, boy, don't take a drop of oil out of the ground here where we are not drilling now and keep the $140 here. It is not OK to open areas at home where we know there is oil and gas.
As I say so often, this defies common sense. I think my constituents know it because in every one of the 14 town meetings I had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of last week in western Iowa, this issue of why we don't drill for our own oil has come up. For 4 years before that, I don't think I heard much about it. But it sure is a big deal waking up people. Maybe that is some advantage of $4 gas. It is harmful to the economy, harmful to middle-income people, more harmful to low-income people, but it might wake up America to have a more balanced energy policy, which is threefold: drill, alternative energy, and conservation.
There are some on the other side of the aisle who wouldn't be able to point to a single area where we should look for oil and natural gas. We have four or five people on my side of the aisle. So this is just not a Democratic thing, but there are more Democrats who believe that than Republicans.
In 2006, Congress took action and voted to open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. However, when the Senate considered the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act in August of that year, 24 Democrats, including Senator Obama, or 57 percent of the caucus opposed that legislation. This was even after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ripped through the gulf without a single oil or gas incident.
Today oil is more than $135 a barrel. Families, small businesses, and truckers are suffering from the increased cost of energy. Farmers have been forced to pay outrageous prices for anhydrous ammonia fertilizer this spring because of the cost of natural gas. Ten years ago we produced domestically nearly all of our fertilizer needs. Now we are dependent upon other countries for 55 percent of that fertilizer. Congress must act to develop our resources at home. We can take action today to develop in responsible ways our own domestic supplies of oil and natural gas What I am saying is, you can do this and not harm the environment.
A bill I recently cosponsored, introduced by Senator McConnell, would take action to reduce gas prices. It would allow States to explore for oil or natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf. It would allow Governors in coastal States to petition for a lifting of a moratorium within their State boundaries. The Pacific and Atlantic regions of the Outer Continental Shelf, which this bill would allow for leasing, hold an estimated 14 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But a moratorium currently prohibits production in those very areas. The Gas Price Reduction Act would take sensible action to allow these resources to be developed.
It is time that we end the obstruction of reasonable, environmentally responsible development of domestic oil and gas resources.
Bottom line: I hope my colleagues will recognize the extreme burden American consumers are experiencing. It is past time to take action to increase our energy supply, increase our economic and national security, and develop the resources that God gave us.
I yield the floor.
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