ENERGY -- (Senate - September 25, 2008)
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Mr. ALLARD. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from New Mexico, Mr. Bingaman, for his leadership on energy, and also the Senator from Alaska, Ms. Murkowski, for her leadership, as well as Republican Senator Pete Domenici for his very strong leadership on energy over the last number of years. This is an issue that is extremely important to the country. I rise to talk about energy policy and some of the thoughts I have been talking about since coming to the Senate. It is important that we get the solution right.
I fully support what the Senator from New Mexico talked about, the three goals he outlined for the next Congress. I will not be here. I am retiring voluntarily. But I do support those goals. I hope we continue to follow through with those goals; that is, an adequate supply of energy, affordable, and that we have a clean source of energy to begin to address some of our environmental problems.
When I first came to the Senate from the House of Representatives, I had been a member of the renewable energy caucus. I came over to the Senate and discovered that we did not have a renewable energy caucus to support the staff and Members of this body. I began the process of establishing a renewable energy caucus because I had come to realize that not only was a balanced energy policy good for the State of Colorado but also for the Nation.
In the State of Colorado, we have the Renewable Energy Laboratory, which was focusing on new technology, whose main effort was to move that technology--not only to discover it but also to move it to market. That is an important step that happens so often in the research world. Nobody looks at the practical aspect of moving scientific discoveries into a market that will really serve the people.
This is a fabulous agency we have, a research agency in Colorado. It naturally came on my shoulders to begin to organize the Senate renewable energy caucus. We did this in a bipartisan manner. We were able to get leadership from the Democratic Party to join me. As cochairmen, we promoted the Senate renewable energy caucus. Over the years, the membership built up. Our programs got stronger with the support of renewable energy labs as well as support from renewable energy industries and businesses throughout the country.
As time went on, we had a change in administration from President Clinton over to President Bush. At the time, he was very strongly in favor of the oil and gas industry and perhaps did not appreciate what was going to be brought to the table with renewable energy. I had to spend some time trying to convince this Republican administration that it needed to appreciate a little more what renewable energy technology was going to bring to this country, now and in the future.
When first coming to the Senate, I always believed we needed to eventually get to a renewable energy economy, but we needed to do it in a way that wouldn't destroy the economy. In other words, initially we had to support new energy development--whether it was in hydrocarbons or other sources of energy, whether it was nuclear, whether it was coal, whatever--but we could not afford to take anything off the table because we had to establish a bridge between older technology built on hydrocarbons, an economy built on that, and build that into sort of the new stage of energy independence. This is not something I was trying to think about in the last year or two when we had the energy crisis, but something I have been working on since coming to the Senate, thinking that we needed to have that balance, that it was important for us to move forward.
Eventually, the Bush administration became very supportive of renewable energy. I am delighted to have them understand the importance of renewable energy and what needs to be done as far as nuclear power.
On nuclear power, by the way, we have lost our infrastructure. A lot of technicians who know how to operate nuclear powerplants, we have lost, and we have exported our technology to France and England. I have gone to those facilities and visited with them. They have been supporting nuclear power, which allowed them to sign on to treaties like the Kyoto Treaty which we did not pass in this Congress by a very large margin because we understood that this country was not ready to move forward yet. We understood at that time that we were exempting big polluters in the world such as China and India.
We need to get ready because we need to be prepared to compete in a world where the source of energy is going to be changing.
I continued to press for oil and gas development, which is important to the economy of Colorado. It was important to the economy of this country when I first came here, and it remains so. It is with interest that I looked at the public employees' retirement accounts in the State of Colorado. These are State employees. It is a retirement plan with growth built on the stock market. A large percentage of their investments today are in oil and gas. So if we walk away from oil and gas development in the State of Colorado, we would severely impact the retirement incomes of many of our State employees.
We need to keep in mind how important oil and gas still is to the economy
and to retirement benefits. There are mandates in States such as Colorado that say you have to invest those dollars in those areas where you can get a good return. So by law in the State of Colorado, they have to invest in oil and gas companies because they have a good, safe return. That is probably going to be there for some time.
Clean coal, obviously, in Colorado and in the country remains important. Clean coal in Colorado is used to dilute the softer coals so that mainly communities on the eastern seaboard can meet their air pollution requirements. We still have a need for that very inexpensive source of energy, and we should not ignore it.
There are proposals to convert oil to liquids, which is extremely important from a national defense standpoint. I know the Defense Department is looking at this kind of technology so they can have a reserve available in times of war or if, for some reason or other, this country's reserve should be disrupted, pretty much like the naval oil reserve we used to have in Colorado, which is now referred to as the Roan Plateau, where much of our oil shale is today.
Natural gas remains important. Again, we are giving in to the lower carbons which burn very cleanly. Colorado State University, which I attended, is doing some remarkable research where they are growing algae now that will grow and develop a diesel fuel. It is a biofuel. We have a company in Berthoud, CO, to the south of where I live that has taken the grease from restaurants and converted it to a diesel fuel. This not only helps us get rid of a very problematic sort of discharge that we have from restaurants, but it converts it into fuel. The exciting thing about this company is they can operate without subsidies. To me, that is really exciting. I hope we can continue to get more companies of this nature to begin to work without having to lean on the Government for the subsidies.
We are all familiar with ethanol and how that has developed over time. There is a lot that can be done. We have talked about hydrocarbons.
There is a lot that can be done in renewables. I see that development happening in the State of Colorado.
We have communities that are using geothermal energy. This is where they run pipes down into the ground. It provides either cooling and/or heating into a building structure. It takes a certain type of geology for that technology to work, but there are many areas in this country where that can work. The environmental community doesn't like to talk about hydroelectric power, but it is a renewable energy, and it is something we should not forget. There are times when it is very applicable to use hydroelectric power.
We have a large wind area in the Midwest involving Texas and Colorado and Wyoming and Montana, parts of Nebraska, Utah, Nevada. These areas are being looked at for wind technology. We have been hearing about it throughout these debates.
Solar and hydrogen are two things that work well.
Obviously, we have legislation dealing with conservation and battery technology. Senator Bingaman talked about the Energy bill of 2005. We promoted all this to happen in that Energy bill.
I was extremely disappointed when last year's appropriations bill had a rider in it that prevented us from developing Outer Continental Shelf oil resources as well as oil shale in the State of Colorado. Oil shale in Colorado is one of the largest potential reserves we have of hydrocarbon fuel in the world. It is larger than all the known reserves in Saudi Arabia. We should not mark that off. When we start disregarding sources of energy, we run the potential of breaking down that bridge that we need from traditional fuels to where we need to be in the future with renewable sources.
Each year, we send over $700 billion overseas for fuel. Much of this money goes to nations that are on less than friendly terms with the United States. For both economic and national security reasons, achieving energy independence should be one of our top priorities.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives took a step in the right direction by approving legislation which would repeal the moratorium on offshore drilling and on issuing oil shale regulations. This is an important step that Republicans in the House and Senate have been championing. Lifting the moratorium on the Outer Continental Shelf will allow access to an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Lifting the moratorium on oil shale regulations moves us one step closer to being able to access an estimated 800 billion barrels of potentially recoverable oil.
That is more than the proven reserves, as I mentioned earlier, of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest reserves in the world.
Taking these steps to increase our energy supply could not come at a better time. Families across America are struggling with high fuel prices. The cooler temperatures of fall are also making folks worry about how the cost of home heating fuel is going to affect their ability to make it through the winter.
As the Senate takes up the continuing resolution that was worked on by the House yesterday, I am hopeful my colleagues will consider this. I am not saying drilling is the only answer to our energy needs. As a founder and cochair of the Senate renewable energy caucus, I know the importance of using renewable energy. I was pleased the Senate passed legislation yesterday that extended many important renewable energy tax incentives.
I am a strong supporter of renewable energy, but we are not at a point yet where renewable energy can meet all our energy needs. We still need fossil fuels, which is why I support removing the Outer Continental Shelf and oil shale moratoriums. With millions of Americans struggling with high fuel prices, it is imperative that the Senate pass a continuing resolution that does not contain these misguided moratoria.
So I ask my colleagues to join me in working for a balanced energy policy for this country that will not only help mean a more secure America from a military aspect but also a more secure America from an economic aspect. I urge my colleagues to join me in that effort in the closing days of this session.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.
Mr. BOND. Mr. President, while he is on the floor, I commend and thank the Senator from Colorado, Mr. Allard, for the great work he has done on housing. I commend him also for his great leadership on all aspects of energy. I join with him in recognizing the great contributions of Chairman Bingaman, Senator Murkowski, and, of course, Senator Domenici. We will miss his guidance and his leadership. But he has made a great contribution, and we are most appreciative.
Mr. ALLARD. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Missouri for his comments and recognize his leadership, particularly on housing issues, and I think he has some great ideas he is bringing forward.