NOMINATIONS -- (Senate - July 17, 2008)
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Mr. WARNER. Madam President, I thank the Chair. I again thank my colleague from Rhode Island.
Before the distinguished leader departs the floor, I simply wish to say that I appreciate his bringing up the nomination of Judge Glen Conrad to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. I was privileged to recommend Glen Conrad to President Bush for his current seat on the U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Judge Conrad has served in this position for five years, and, prior to his confirmation by the Senate, he was a magistrate judge in the Eastern District for twenty-seven years. He has devoted his professional life to serving the Federal court system and is eminently qualified to fill one of those Fourth Circuit vacancies that desperately need it.
I wish to thank my good friend and colleague, Senator Webb, who joined me in recommending Judge Conrad for the Fourth Circuit. We have submitted our blue slips to the Judiciary Committee, and I have confidence that the majority leader and the distinguished chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee will find time to look at his nomination. Glen Conrad is a true public servant who is ready to take and fill a badly needed post.
I thank the leader.
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, if I could just take a moment, I haven't given up hope, I would say to my good friend from Virginia, that Judge Conrad will be reported out of committee and confirmed. But there are no remaining obstacles. All of the paperwork is done and has been finished for
over a month. I hope my good friend from Virginia, and his colleague who supports the nominee who is of the other party, will continue to press the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the majority leader to move forward with a nominee who appears to me by all accounts to be about as noncontroversial as can be come up with. So I thank my colleague from Virginia.
Mr. WARNER. I thank again our colleague from Rhode Island.
I spoke earlier when the distinguished Senator from New Mexico, Mr. Domenici, was on the Senate floor talking generally about the drilling offshore. I mentioned that for many years I have been working on it with other colleagues in this Chamber and lost the majority by one vote.
I ask unanimous consent to amend those statements with further criteria.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. WARNER. Madam President, now I wish to briefly address what I think is a very important aspect of the ongoing debate on energy. I want to laud many Senators on both sides of the aisle who are looking at the gravity of the situation. Families sit around the kitchen table in the evenings and work out problems among themselves, including the gravity of the problems associated with the rising gas prices at the gas pump, food prices, and many other issues. I went in and made a study of the increased cost of a loaf of bread, dishwasher fluid--I could go on and on--hot dogs, hamburgers. The extent to which prices are going up is extraordinary, coupled with the increased price at the gas pump.
We are all working together, and I firmly believe that under the leadership of Senators Reid and McConnell, we can come up with some sort of a bipartisan effort consistent with the overall policy the President has urged recently in his speech.
As important as offshore drilling is--and I yield not a foot of ground on that; I think it is important, and that is why I have been advocating it for many years. I support battery-powered automobiles, wind energy, and all of the other renewables. But we have to do something now, today, and tomorrow to help the people sitting around their kitchen tables trying to solve their problems. I have been looking at several options, and I will review them briefly.
I anticipate that one-third of Americans today are virtually desperate and trying to make ends meet with their family budgets, and the necessity to drive their automobiles to go to work, pick up their children, to visit their elderly grandparents--all of these things are matters of necessity, and they are trying to balance that out among themselves. What do we do about it?
I introduced the Immediate Steps to Conserve Gasoline Act--an odd title but straightforward in what it says. My idea is as follows: Many folks--a third of them--are conserving; they are taking conservation steps. Look at the statistics. You see less driving. Quite a few statistics are coming in about less driving, which translates into less demand at the gas pump. A free marketplace should lead to some measure of reduction. We recognize that gasoline and petroleum is at worldwide pricing, and we are in a one-world market. We are competing with other nations, which are likewise experiencing the rising costs of fuel.
My brother recently returned from a business trip to Europe. He is quite familiar with Central Europe and Austria. He said on the famous autobahn they are cutting back on the speed because there is a savings on gasoline. The faster you drive, the less efficient the carburetion process in the engine is in terms of delivering power.
I suggested to the President, to the Secretary of Energy, and I have asked the Government Accounting Office to look at a chapter in American history. I remember it quite well, 1973 to 1974. I was at the Navy Department. My friend from Rhode Island, John Chafee, and I were together at that time. I remember the President, together with the full support of the Congress, enacted legislation whereby America imposed a hardship on itself; it was a program all across America--and it is all a matter of public record--that made the speed limit 55 miles per hour. What I have asked the President, the Secretary of Energy, the GAO, and others to do is to go back and examine that period, take a look at it. Fifty-five might not be the speed limit; it might be 60 or even a slightly higher speed limit because of the improved carburetion process and efficiency achieved in this nearly quarter of a century in today's modern automobiles compared to the 1973-1974 automobiles.
It is interesting, in that period of time--and these are Government statistics--when the national speed limit was imposed, it saved 167,000 barrels of oil a day. The significance of that figure is that, in that period, 1973-1974, we were only 30 percent dependent upon importing oil from abroad. Now we are at 60 percent. So there has been a doubling of our dependency on foreign oil. Also, the number of vehicles on the road today--a quarter of a century later--is approximately twice the number of vehicles that were traveling America's highways and roads in 1973-1974.
I realize it is not popular to talk about it. Believe me, around my own dinner table at night, I have heard from my children, who are not at all pleased with this.
Anyway, I think we have an obligation as a Congress, working with the executive branch, to look at it. That is all I am asking. Go study it, those who are far more knowledgeable than I and those who have all of the facts at their fingertips, and let's bring in the private sector to give their views and look at this potential. If we were to bring about some reduction of the high speeds on America's roads and highways today, I think you could translate that into less demand at the pump and less demand in terms of out-of-pocket costs.
So there we are, simple as that. It is history, it worked, so let's look at it. That 55-miles-an-hour speed limit that was put in back then stayed for 20 years. Congress finally repealed it in 1995. Guess what. The cost of fuel had dropped to $2 a gallon or thereabouts.
The other measure that I bring to the attention of my colleagues is this: The American people are using their own initiatives to save energy, and I am calling on the entire Federal Government, under the leadership of the President, and all of the agencies and departments to see whether they can reduce their overall use of gasoline by 2 to 3 percent--just by a small margin.
We passed an energy act here not long ago, and I use that as a model. We were talking about other forms of energy there. That is becoming law.
For 1 year, the Federal Government can say we are going to join the citizens and reduce our overall consumption of gasoline by 2 to 3 percent, give it a try--anything to bring off pressure at the pump.
My two concepts fall clearly under the area of conservation. As I look at the various options my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are exploring and looking at, I do not see therein the conservation potential, thus far, which can bring about some relief. I am confident this can be done if it is done properly. The American people are not going to like it. Politically, it will be a tough one. Somehow, I have always felt, in the 30 years I have been privileged to be a part of this body, that we are called upon now and then to make tough calls and stand up to the American public and say we have to all pull together--the people and the Government, State and Federal.
I yield the floor.