GAS SHORTAGES -- (Senate - September 25, 2008)
Mrs. DOLE. Madam President, we all know high gas prices are the source of tremendous frustration to individuals, families, and businesses alike. I am greatly discouraged that yet another week has gone by and no action on a comprehensive energy policy has taken root in the Senate. Our country deserves better than the lack of leadership in Washington that has been shown on this issue the past 2 years.
We need a comprehensive energy policy, but right now in North Carolina we just need more gasoline. My State faces a gas shortage of crisis proportions. In western North Carolina, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Southwestern Community College have both canceled classes for the rest of this week because students and professors cannot get to class. My office has been assisting senior citizens who need help getting to doctor appointments because public transportation systems are struggling to meet increased demand. Businesses are closing early, cars are being left on the side of the road, and families are staying home just to conserve gasoline. The ripple effects of this gas shortage are resonating throughout North Carolina and the Southeast.
I know folks in western North Carolina are being particularly hard hit, and I want them to know I have heard them and we are acting to bring relief. My office has been in daily contact with constituents, State and local officials, gasoline refiners and distributors, and our Federal agencies. In response to the shortage, today my colleague, Senator RICHARD BURR, and I have written to the Secretary of Energy requesting him to tap the International Energy Agency's emergency gasoline and diesel fuel supply. An IEA release can help alleviate some of the supply constraints we are feeling in the United States. This is a prudent and responsible step which is on the scale of our efforts post-Katrina and Rita, and there is no reason the Secretary of Energy should not take this action.
Additionally, Senator Burr and I have introduced legislation today that will help prevent in the future a situation such as the one we find ourselves in today. The Motor Fuel Supply and Distribution Improvement Act of 2008 will reduce the proliferation of boutique fuels and streamline the process of getting more affordable and reliable product to western North Carolina, Charlotte, the Southeast, and across the country. With this legislation, we will no longer have to rely on an EPA Administrator to issue a waiver in times of crisis or be held victim to a policy that creates hurdles to getting gasoline to consumers when they need it most.
We also know this particular shortage is a result of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which devastated the gulf coast and its infrastructure. Being from a State that has been hit by its fair share of hurricanes, my heart goes out to the people of the gulf who have endured far too much disaster for one lifetime, and we will do everything possible to support them and help them rebuild.
Of strategic consequence, however, the refinery and pipeline closures in the gulf as a result of the storms highlight a glaring energy security issue for our country. It makes little sense to have a quarter of our country's refining capacity located so densely in one area. We have far too few oil refineries in America, and right now in North Carolina we are experiencing the harmful consequences of a policy that has greatly inhibited the building of new refineries in America.
We need to get to work building new refineries right here at home. In fact, for years I have been calling for streamlining regulations so more refineries can get built, only to have special interests stand in the way. The Gas Petroleum Rifiner Improvement and Community Empowerment Act, or Gas PRICE Act, which I have supported since 2005, would streamline the process for the construction and operation of a refinery so we can build additional refineries and create new jobs in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast. This is a sensible approach that would expand refinery capacity and lower gas prices.
Significantly, with this plan, our country would no longer be so dependent on one area to provide us with so much of our gasoline. As we saw in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we need to expand refining capacity and production so that even in the face of crisis situations our fuel supply system continues to function and support American businesses and consumers.
Now Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have reinforced that same message. North Carolinians can no longer afford Congress's inaction on our energy future. It is time to put the special interests aside and do what is right for our country.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
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