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Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection

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Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection

Dear fellow Oregonian:

I write to you deeply disappointed that the leadership of the House rejected the good work of our Senators and failed to include an emergency one-year funding of the county timber payments. I, and my Democratic Oregon colleagues, had personally contacted Speaker Pelosi to plead with her to once again support our local communities and schools by including the Senate-passed $400 million in the emergency supplemental legislation. Tragically, it didn't even make her short list. I was reminded of her statement in Portland last fall: "Where we go from here is to see how to phase this system out."

I, for one, refuse to stand for that. But rather than repeating the mistakes that doomed passage of the multi-year reauthorization legislation two weeks ago, we need to pull together Members of both parties and both chambers to hammer out a real funding mechanism that can become law. I put forward a proposal last time this issue came up, but the Leadership prevented consideration of any alternatives. I couldn't even offer it up for a vote. Given that their strategies failed us, perhaps now, they'll be more open-minded. I'm working in a bipartisan way to draft legislation that could actually become law. I'm finding solid interest from House members from both parties and from all across the country. Soon, we'll more formally unveil the plan.

The last thing we can do is hang our heads and surrender. Too much is at stake for our communities, our school children and our forests to just give up.

And let us not forget that we're in this mess because some of these same people forced the no-management provisions on our forests. As a result, our federal forests are going up in smoke at record levels each summer. Today, 47 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget is spent fighting fire. A new study found that evergreen forests in the South and West are the dominant U.S. sources for carbon dioxide emissions from fires. Authors of one study wrote: "A striking implication of very large wildfires is that a severe fire season lasting only one or two months can release as much carbon as the annual emissions from the entire transportation or energy sector of an individual state."

In short, we must become better stewards of our forests and in so doing we can produce American jobs, new tax revenues and reduce unnatural fire occurrences and the record emissions they cause.

Senator Wyden recently unveiled legislation to address this issue, and I'm very close to announcing a bipartisan effort as well. Working together we can make the needed changes our forests deserve and our forest communities need.

ENERGY

Meanwhile, I've participated in several hearings in the last few weeks on the issues related to the outrageous gas and diesel prices and the affect they're having on families, food and American jobs. I'll fly back to Washington all night Sunday so that I can participate in a Monday morning hearing focusing on market manipulation issues and ways to bring about appropriate regulation and transparency.

As you probably know, I've long supported both development of alternative energy sources and new technologies, along with higher mileage standards for vehicles and other conservation efforts. But while we work toward a less-oil-dependant future, today we have a near-crisis on our hands.

Over the years, I could see America becoming more dependent on foreign governments, cartels and companies for our oil and gas. That's why I've supported research funding to turn tar sands, shale and coal into liquid fuels, and I've supported accessing more of America's oil resources onshore and offshore using environmentally sound practices.

Since this issue is dominating the national news and the local coffee shop discussions, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some facts that have come from the hearings and documents I've studied:

ALASKAN RESERVES

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the mean estimate of technically recoverable oil in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge set aside by President Carter for future oil and gas development is 10.4 billion barrels — all of which is now commercially recoverable.

* That's more than twice the proven oil reserves in all of Texas.
* That's almost half of the total U.S. proven reserve of 21 billion barrels.
* That represents a possible 50% increase in proven U.S. reserves.

Based on the USGS mean estimate, ANWR would provide one million barrels a day for 30 years, representing a 20 percent increase in domestic production, or equivalent to what the entire state of Texas produces daily. Moreover, it's equivalent to 30 years worth of oil imports from Venezuela.

Development would be limited to 2,000 acres of the Coastal Plain (0.01 percent of the entire 19.6 million-acre area). Federal law would require that nearly all of that oil stay here in America.

OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS

According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), America's deep seas on the Outer Continental Shelf contain 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (the U.S. consumes 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year) and 86 billion barrels of oil (the U.S. imports 4.5 billion barrels per year.)

Eighty-five percent of the Lower 48 States' Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) energy resources are off limits to exploration and development by federal law. In fact, the United States is the only developed nation in the world that forbids safe energy production on its OCS.

One of the primary reasons that Brazil became energy independent is because of off-shore oil discoveries that increased their domestic oil production by about nine-fold.

TOTAL ONSHORE OIL AND GAS (not including oil shale)

Onshore federal lands contain an estimated 31 billion barrels of oil and 231 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The federal government denies or restricts access to 92 percent (28.5 billion barrels) of this oil and 90 percent (207.9 trillion cubic feet) of this natural gas.

Only 8 percent (248 billion barrels of oil) of the oil and just 10 percent (23.1 trillion cubic feet) of the natural gas are accessible under standard leasing terms.

U.S. OIL SHALE

The U.S. is the "Saudi Arabia" of oil shale. According to the Department of Energy, America is endowed with more than 2 trillion barrels of oil. Scientists are hard at work developing new technologies to recover this oil.

To put this figure in perspective, the world has used 1 trillion barrels of oil since the first oil well was successfully drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859.

Yet, last year Congress attached a rider to an appropriations bill that made this huge domestic resource off limits (I voted against it, by the way).

EXPLORATION? UP or DOWN?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, drilling of oil and natural gas exploratory wells increased by 98 percent from 2000 to 2007. Yet, crude oil production decreased by 12.4 percent.

Between 2002 and 2007, 52 percent of all the exploration wells and 8% of the development wells were dry. Lots of drilling. No oil.

Only 3 percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is leased for oil and gas exploration and development. Only 6 percent of lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management are leased for oil and gas exploration and development.

REFINERY CAPACITY? UP or DOWN?

While there has been consolidation in the number of refiners since 1980, refining production has increased by 41 percent as refiners have expanded production at their facilities, that according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

This week, I signed a discharge petition to bring a bill to the floor that would expedite siting of new refineries on old military bases. At a time when roughly 10 percent of the gasoline consumed in the U.S. is imported to meet demand, (approximately 1.3 million barrels per day of gasoline, including blendstocks), and no new refineries constructed in many years, it would help our nation become more energy independent if we had more refinery capacity.

CONSERVATION

Demand for gasoline was down 1.5 percent in the first quarter of this year and distillate demand was down 4.5 percent. Even with the slower demand, refining capacity has risen from 85 percent to 89 percent over the past month. Just in the past week, gasoline inventories rose by 2.9 million barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Even with Americans cutting back on their consumption, the price this year has skyrocketed as demand by other countries puts new pressure on the global markets. Just this week, China — which accounts for 40 percent of the increase in demand for fuel — announced it was going to raise the price of gasoline to consumers in that country, after price caps had resulted in a lack of supply at the pump. That announcement caused he worldwide price of crude oil to fall more by more than $4.50 a barrel.

It seems to me our challenge is to make sure the markets where oil is traded are transparent and properly regulated to prevent manipulation. Our hearing Monday will look into these issues. We must also work on new technologies, conservation and practical alternatives. But for the here and now, we could send a dramatic signal to the markets if Congress would act to make more of our resources available for production. While it would take years to actually get the oil produced, the speculators would know we've changed course and are serious about making America more energy independent. Our economic future — and a lot of farm and family budgets — depend upon it.

And yet, this Congress has done little to lead on this issue. Of the 244 laws that this Congress has enacted, 35 percent named government buildings or lands; 16 percent extended existing laws or made technical corrections to existing laws; of the remaining bills enacted into law, 35 percent were so noncontroversial that they passed either without a recorded vote in the House or with fewer 10 votes in opposition. It has named 51 months for various causes — which by the way is 27 more than there are on a two-year calendar.

OK, I may be sounding a little cynical. But having been a small business owner and manager for more than 21 years, I get frustrated by lack of timely and serious action on major policy initiatives. I served on a local hospital board and a community bank board and remember well how we worked together to set strategic goals, hold ourselves accountable and make tough decisions. Voting to name "National Passport Month" is hardly the stuff of serious governing, especially at a time when our economy is up on the rocks and the price of fuel is disrupting family life, hurting small businesses and causing commodity prices to soar and the cost of fertilizer to double.

IN OTHER NEWS

In a couple of weeks I'll be in Chiloquin to see firsthand the progress being made to remove Chiloquin dam, which the Fish and Wildlife Service said is the principal reason the sucker fisher were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Several years ago, after reading the USFWS report, I drafted and got passed legislation to bring together the Klamath Tribe, the Modoc Point Irrigation District, local and federal authorities to work out an equitable solution among themselves. After many difficult months of productive talks, they accomplished their mission. Work is well underway to pump water for the irrigators from a site downstream, and I've helped secure funding for removal of this nearly 100-year-old diversion dam. I'm also pressing federal agencies to give us some credit for removing the obstacle they say caused the listing. In the past, the USFWS could not tell me how many suckers had been in Upper Klamath Lake, how many are there now, nor how many they think are needed to cause a delisting. While efforts are underway to gather better data by tagging the suckers, it is clear that we've done what was called for by the agency and the local communities and agencies deserve much credit for this extraordinary accomplishment.

As this week comes to a close, we've actually tackled some difficult issues. We've voted to fund our troops, upgrade their benefits with a modern G.I. Bill (which I was proud to cosponsor) and provide extended unemployment benefits to people, especially in parts of our country where the economy is really in the tank, such as Michigan. We've also reached a bipartisan agreement on fixing the problems with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which will provide new safeguards for the protection of our civil liberties while allowing our intelligence community the ability to track foreigners and their communications to protect our national security.

For more information on my work in Congress, please visit my website at www.Walden.House.Gov. If you would like to unsubscribe from this mailing, simply reply and type the word "unsubscribe" in the subject box.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
Member of Congress


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