Gas Prices and Energy Independence
A number of factors combine to exert pressure on gasoline prices in all parts of the country. Major factors in the run-up of crude oil prices include the sharply increased consumption of imported oil by China, the continuing possibility of a supply disruption from either violence or terrorism in the Middle East, or from natural disasters like hurricanes. Production and marketing factors also affect gasoline prices and stem from a lack of refining capacity in the United States, the range of fuel blends required to meet air pollution regulations and the continuous increase in demand needed for economic growth.
With oil and natural gas prices higher than ever, energy conservation and investments in renewable energy technology are vital to the taxpayer's wallet, the environment and our national security. In late 2007, the Democratic leadership of the 110th Congress proposed and passed a new, bi-partisan direction for energy security through H.R. 6, the Energy Independence and Security Act. I was pleased to support this legislation when it came up again for a vote on the House floor in December, this time with further input and compromise with the Senate. President Bush signed H.R. 6 into law on December 19, 2007.
For the first time in over thirty years, H.R. 6 will raise fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon for cars and SUV's by the year 2020. This bill will also mandate the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be blended with conventional fuels by 2022, with an emphasis on the production of cellulosic ethanol. These resources can be derived from a number of different and abundant sources in Georgia including trees, waste biomass, logging residue and other agricultural residues. This bill will also set standards for the production of energy efficient lamps and appliances, while directing the Department of Energy to set new energy efficient standards for building codes. Finally, H.R. 6 will also invest in a clean energy workforce by establishing the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program to develop green collar jobs.
In late February 2008, I also supported H.R. 5351, Renewable Energy & Energy Conservation Tax Act, which focuses on providing taxpayers incentives to invest in renewable energy and conservation measures. This legislation would extend and modify several energy-related tax credits including the Renewable Energy Production Credit, the Solar Energy and Fuel-Cell Investment Credit and the Tax Credit for Residential Energy-Efficient Property. This legislation would also authorize $5.6 billion for tax-credit bonds to finance renewable energy and energy conservation efforts, create a new tax credit for plug-in hybrid vehicles, and allow utility companies to recover the cost of "smart" electricity meters over a five-year period. I am particularly pleased this bill would create a new tax credit for the production of certain cellulosic fuels derived from lignocellulosic renewable resources. If enacted, producers in Georgia and across the country could claim a 50-cent credit for each gallon of fuel before the end of 2010. This credit is in addition to the existing 51-cent per gallon credit for ethanol, and the 10-cent per gallon credit for small producers. I voted in favor of this legislation because beyond the many merits of providing incentives for consumers, the cellulosic ethanol provisions included would certainly help Georgia's ethanol producers who will drive our energy independence.
The Southeast faces unique challenges in energy generation. An ever-growing population has forced us to rely too heavily upon coal-generated electricity, a source that continues to increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and causes pollution in the air we breathe. While utilities are slowly switching to natural gas and nuclear power, we must explore creative solutions to address our rapidly increasing electricity demands that fit the characteristics of our region
The tremendous population growth and economic activity in Georgia has made our state an engine for regional and national economic prosperity. However, this has come at a cost to the local and state environment, affecting the air, water and overall quality of life in Georgia. As your representative in Congress, I support responsible stewardship and management of our environment and natural resources for the sustainability of Georgia's economic growth, and most importantly, our children. The federal government must support states' efforts to meet the goals outlined in the Clean Air Act. I am diligently following energy and conservation issues at the federal level to ensure sustainable environmental and economic policy for the metropolitan Atlanta area businesses, commerce and residents.
With the passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in the 1970's, Congress took the first step in protecting our nation's waters. Over the last 30 years, many revisions and updates to this legislation have ensured on-going protection. Federal and state environmental agencies have been involved in improving the Combined Sewer Overflow system in the City of Atlanta for several years. Their plan includes rerouting old flow routes, constructing new storage areas for the combined sewer flow, closing older facilities and adding additional improved facilities for secondary-treatment for discharge into local rivers. As these projects approach completion, Atlanta will still need assistance to maintain these facilities and mitigate future problems as they arise. As such, in the 110th Congress, I was pleased to support the passage of several pieces of legislation designed to assist state and local governments with their needs to repair, rebuild and update wastewater treatment plants among other infrastructure necessities.
Throughout my time as your representative, I have been a very strong supporter of protecting wildlife and critical habitat. As we consider funding for FY 09, once again I have signed a number of letters concerning increases for federal land and wildlife conservation programs.
* I have sent a letter requesting an additional $38.4 million in funding for the Endangered Species Act for listing, recovery, consultation, and candidate conservation programs.
* I also sent a letter requesting $166 million for the National Parks Service, to support the needs of three national park sites adjacent to our district--Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.
* I requested $125 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to provide matching federal grants to states and local communities to develop outdoor recreation facilities, parks and other resources. Congress enacted the LWCF in 1964 to provide conservation funds derived from receipts from oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and, since 1965, authorized over $3.2 billion in federal funding to assist states and localities acquire more park and recreation land. According to the National Park Service, unfortunately 90 percent of funding needs in Georgia went unmet last year.
* I have also requested $120 million for the Forest Legacy Program and co-sponsored H.R. 2516, the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act. These programs are among the most significant federal sources of funding to support land and wildlife conservation.
* Finally, I have requested increased funding for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF), which is vital in preventing illegal poaching, wildlife product smuggling and human-animal conflicts.