STOP EXCESSIVE ENERGY SPECULATION ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - July 23, 2008)
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Mrs. DOLE. Mr. President, it is imperative--imperative--that American leaders declare war on high gas policies and implement policies to achieve energy independence. We are almost 60 percent dependent on foreign sources of oil, from the likes of Iran's Ahmadinejad, Russia's Putin, and Venezuela's Chavez, all of whom harbor anti-American sentiments and get richer while American families are suffering and our businesses are hurting terribly.
To secure our energy future, America needs what I would call a ``kitchen sink'' policy. We need to throw everything and the kitchen sink at our energy crisis--conservation, alternative energy, exploration, and market fairness. We need policies that provide immediate relief as well as short- and long-term solutions.
I urged that we halt deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and we successfully passed legislation to that effect. I support right now releasing one-third of the current reserves which would increase supply, drive down prices, and signal to speculators that the U.S. Government is dead serious about addressing high gas prices.
It is also important to protect consumers from illegal market manipulation and corporate corruption. I, along with some of my colleagues, am calling for an oil and gas market fraud task force to police oil speculators and ensure that energy markets are functioning properly.
As we know, the Senate is currently considering a bill to rein in energy market speculation, and I agree that additional enforcement and transparency can help better manage these commodities that are critical to our economic and national security. We should move forward with responsible actions, but cracking down on speculators alone will not solve our gas price woes.
We must also decrease demand and increase supply. Rising gas prices are driven primarily by supply and demand imbalance in global energy markets. Last year, global demand exceeded supply by nearly 1 billion barrels per day. The result: Over the past year, gas prices in North Carolina have increased by more than 30 percent.
To decrease demand, I strongly support conservation efforts and investments in alternative energy research. No question, America needs a crash course in conservation. I have cosponsored numerous bills to pursue these goals, including the Clean Energy Investment Act, the Climate Security Act, and the Clean Energy Tax Stimulus Act.
To increase supply, we also must utilize America's vast energy resources. Surely, bringing these energy resources on line will not happen overnight but, if anything, that means we should move more quickly to pursue them. For instance, if President Clinton had not vetoed legislation in 1995 to open 2,000 acres of the 19 million acres in remote areas of Alaska for exploration, our current energy deficit would already be reduced by roughly 1 million barrels of oil a day.
After careful consideration, I support lifting the moratorium on the Outer Continental Shelf--OCS--giving States the option of allowing exploration at least 50 miles offshore, where it is not visible from land. A portion of revenues generated from leases would go to the States and could be used for dredging and beach renourishment and other coastal priorities. Families struggling with high gas prices cannot afford for Congress to keep energy options off the table. They must all be on the table.
I am excited about lifting restrictions on oil shale exploration in the Rocky Mountain West. With the potential for oil shale to produce more than three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia, we can ill afford to further delay utilizing this American oil resource.
However, we should not explore for more petroleum at the expense of alternative energy. We must pursue all available resources, including nuclear, clean coal, natural gas, wind, solar, and biofuels.
Along those lines, let me add that not only are families being slammed with high energy costs, but they are also being hit hard with escalating food prices. I am very concerned that food-to-fuel mandates have resulted in a substantial volume of our corn crop and vegetable oils being diverted into ethanol and other fuel supplies, severely impacting food and feed prices. In fact, since February 2006, the price of corn has increased by more than 200 percent, and this has caused feed price increases that impact the cost of basic items such as milk, eggs, and meat.
During consideration of the 2007 Energy bill, Senator Inhofe and I tried to include a safeguard in the renewable fuel standard which would have helped prevent a situation such as we face today. The administration should waive the mandates, and we need to correct these unintended negative consequences where an excessive amount of corn and vegetable oils have gone to ethanol production. This is having an impact worldwide and emptying the shelves of our food banks and our food pantries. Alternative energy must absolutely be a part of our energy future, but there are obvious and painful lessons to be learned from the ripple effects of these mandates.
One day we will be free from the stranglehold of high gas prices and dependence on foreign oil. We will power our economy with alternative energy sources, and no longer will the petrotyrants in Iran, Venezuela, and Russia be able to hold the world economy hostage.
However, to get there, we are going to have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at our energy crisis. I call on President Bush to hold a national summit now for congressional and national leaders to come together and develop a comprehensive plan. The time is now for realistic, bipartisan solutions to provide families and businesses with immediate relief to meet our energy needs for the short term and to secure our energy independence for the future.
I yield the floor.
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