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Free Flow of Information Act of 2007--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 30, 2008)


Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I heard President Bush's statement at the White House today, and I have to be very blunt. I think the President must think the American people are stupid. For 7 1/2 years we have had two oilmen in the White House, with Republican majorities in Congress for 6 years, and we have seen gas prices go from $1.46 when President Bush took office to over $4--to about $4 now; it went over $4 at one point--per gallon. Now he would have us believe, after that 7 1/2 years--Republican majorities for 6 of those 7 1/2 years and having the oil industry write the energy policy with Vice President Cheney in the White House--now he would have us believe, in fact, that we are responsible for this.

It is a good lawyer's game. When you don't have the facts on your side, when you don't have the law on your side, you pound on the table and create a diversion. That is what they have done--tried to create a diversion. The American people are a lot smarter than that.

The fact is, Democrats cannot act as we want to on the energy crisis because the Republican Party simply won't allow us. We have a slim majority in the Senate, and by Senate rules, the Republicans can filibuster to require us to get 60 votes for anything. That really means, in essence, for those watching, they have the ability to block any legislation they want, and they have used that power to the hilt. Over 90 times they have used this procedural tactic to block much needed legislation. Even though we are in the midst of an energy crisis, they are still blocking everything.

At first they said they were blocking us from our work because they wanted a vote on opening our shores to oil drilling--something I don't support--but the majority leader said OK. We will give you a vote on opening our shores to oil drilling.

Then the Republicans said: Oh, that is not good enough either. Instead, they claimed to want to vote on opening the shores to oil drilling, a vote on nuclear power, a vote on oil shale development, a vote on their larger package of proposals, and guess what. The majority leader said earlier this week: OK, you can have a vote on all of that. Yet, somehow, every time the majority leader offers the other side votes on exactly what they want, they keep saying that is not good enough. They simply won't take yes for an answer.

I hear their speeches. They all mention speculation. Well, we have had testimony that, in fact, speculation in the marketplace could raise oil by $50 per barrel. We even saw a company that was just taken by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission being charged with having manipulated the marketplace--made $1 million in 11 days and increased gas and oil prices. Yet they won't let us go to speculation. They say one thing, they do another.

The big issue they keep talking about is production, but the Republicans don't want production. They simply don't want us to have progress. That is their game plan. They have a political equation, and it is: Don't let anything be achieved.

On five separate occasions, they have had the opportunity to vote for energy production. They have had the opportunity to keep the rapidly developing wind and solar industries growing at an accelerated pace, but instead they decide to play politics. The Republican Party doesn't seem to take renewable energy seriously. It is true that renewables are essential for our environment, essential for our economy. What these industries really represent are an opportunity to produce massive amounts of domestic energy cheaply and at least 100,000 new high-paying jobs in America.

Now, if you don't think renewables are serious business, just ask landowners in Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, or Wyoming who are, in fact, receiving $3,000 to $5,000 per month for allowing a windmill to be sited on their property or ask oilman T. Boone Pickens, who is plowing billions of dollars of his own money into wind energy and a plan to use renewables to end our addiction to oil.

Now, somebody who has made a lot of money in oil doesn't all of a sudden plow billions of dollars of his own money into renewable energy unless he thinks there is going to be a payoff at the end. He understands.

In my home State of New Jersey we have windmills in Atlantic City, where the casinos are, generating a lot of electricity. Last year we installed enough turbines to power over 1.5 million homes. The solar power industry is growing at over 40 percent a year.

These technologies work. They are working now. They are in high demand. They produce an enormous amount of energy. We need to accelerate and expand that. If we extend the wind and solar tax credits so these industries can continue their rapid growth, we could add 150 gigawatts of installed capacity within 10 years. Now, what does that mean? That means that we would have enough electricity to power over 37 million homes. At that rate, by 2030, we could get over 25 percent of our Nation's electricity from wind and solar power.

The package of tax credits that the Republicans continue to block--blocked again today--represents a solution also for the high price of oil. There is a large tax credit for the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles--cars, for example, such as the Chevy Volt, which will be able to run on electricity for the first 40 miles after being plugged in. That means a full three-quarters of all trips--all trips--driven by Americans would not use a drop of gas. If projections by some of the experts hold true, and half the cars on the road in 2030 are plug-in hybrids, we could easily cut our use of oil by 10 percent, and some would suggest that we could even displace much more.

And by this time, we would be producing enough renewable energy to power all these cars and still have electricity to spare. If we want cheap gasoline and we want to be free from imported oil, we need to pass the tax credit extensions, and we need to build plug-in hybrids, solar panels, and winds turbines, to name a few. It is that simple.

It is time for our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to stop exploiting our energy crisis for big oil's gain and let us vote on the things that will actually produce energy.

Instead, they insist on holding up everything for an absurd plan that, according to the Energy Information Agency, will not produce energy at all for 10 years and, in 2030, will only produce enough additional gasoline for the equivalent of a few tablespoons per American car.

Let me try to put their plan into perspective. Since April of this year, Americans seeing the high cost of gas have actually reduced their consumption by 800,000 barrels of oil a day more than we did year ago. This is the most significant and sudden drop in oil since the 1970s. But what happened, even though we have reduced 800,000 barrels of oil every day? Prices went up.

In recent weeks, in response to record oil prices, Saudi Arabia produced an additional half-million barrels of oil more each day. What happened? Prices went up.

So how does the Bush-McCain drilling plan compare to these recent events? Well, based upon the Bush administration Energy Information Agency's own analysis, if we open all our shores to oil production, the first drop of oil would not be seen for almost a decade, and offshore oil production would peak in the year 2030. Then it would peak at only 200,000 barrels a day.

So, in fact, if 800,000 barrels a day in reduced consumption combined with an increase of 500,000 barrels a day in extra production hasn't lowered gas prices one bit, it is clear that the production of 200,000 versus a combination of 1.3 million barrels in reduced demand or increased production--200,000 barrels in the year 2030--is going to do absolutely nothing about gas prices.

In fact, the Energy Information Agency says that adding those 200,000 barrels per day in production in 2030 will lower the price of gasoline by less than a penny per gallon.

Let me repeat that. The Republican production plan to open all our shores to drilling and risk the environmental consequences we saw, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico during Katrina and Rita, with 700,000 gallons of oil spilled and 7 million spilled on land by the facilities that bring that oil to the marketplace, would not lower gas prices but about a penny in 2030.

Let's compare these numbers with what renewables have to offer. Remember, if we pass the renewable energy tax extender credits, we could produce massive amounts of electricity from renewable technologies. We hear this constantly being discussed by the Republicans, but they don't let us vote on it. Remember that the tax extenders will help us rapidly deploy plug-in hybrid technology so we can use this electricity for transportation.

By some projections, this means that by 2030, the same time period they are drilling off the shore with the risk that comes to a $200 billion coastal economy, we could replace 2 million to 3 million barrels of oil per day with electricity. Compare 2 million to 3 million barrels to a measly 200,000 barrels per day by the drilling.

Some, such as the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, projected we could actually displace 3 times as much, or 6.5 million barrels per day by 2030 versus 200,000 barrels in this big drill, drill, drill.

I don't quite get it. You can save the equivalent of 6.5 million barrels every day in energy by pursuing the renewables that they say they support but don't vote for or you can have 200,000 versus 6.5 million by virtue of drilling 30 years from now. So this, of course, means that for us to achieve this, we need to get beyond the Republican efforts to stop us from maintaining the
tax incentives we have. It means we actually have to get serious about our energy policies and start a serious effort to run our transportation fleet on electricity.

That is what voters have to decide on this fall. Do they want to vote for the party of big oil, the party that saw the dramatic increase in gas over the administration's lifetime, where they wrote the rules and the law at the White House, sitting with the Vice President of the United States--do they want to vote for big oil that has record profits, starting with ConocoPhillips? I can't wait for tomorrow, or the day after, when ExxonMobil puts out their record profits. We are talking about billions in record profits. Do they want to vote for big oil, which concocted a plan that does nothing but enrich the oil companies?

This is about one last grab before the administration goes out of office. They already have 68 million acres in this country that they have access to. Now they say we cannot do this or that. They have 68 million acres. They have millions of acres in the Outer Continental Shelf that are not subject to the moratorium. They have areas in the gulf they have not pursued.

The bottom line is that plenty of drilling can take place, and they have not done it. Even the President of the American Petroleum Institute says we don't have the infrastructure or the resources to do it. All this talk about drill, drill, drill, which would only produce 200,000 barrels in 2030 versus 6.5 million barrels of reduced demand in oil--that would do something about the gas prices--and not letting us take out the speculation in the marketplace, which would reduce oil $50 per barrel, some experts say, but they would not let us vote on that. They would not let us vote on the tax extenders.

So this is not about creating production, this is about stopping progress. This is about a Republican game plan that says we will send the Congress home without having done anything about dealing with gas prices, and the minority will face the consequences. They are so sadly mistaken that the American people will not see through 6.5 years of record gas prices, record oil profits, unwilling to allow us to deal with speculation or deal with production and what the energy tax extenders provide, unwilling to allow us to pursue conservation, unwilling to let the American people get the relief they want.

That is why I truly believe that if they continue on this course, the Nation will suffer and consumers will suffer. But they will suffer at the polls come November.

With that, I yield the floor.

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