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Motion To Go To Conference On S. 294, Passenger Rail Investment And Improvement Act Of 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. HELLER of Nevada. Madam Speaker, I rise today to offer a motion to instruct conferees on H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act of 2008. This simple motion directs the House-Senate conferees to insist upon section 221 of the House bill, which states that ``Amtrak shall be subject to the Buy American Act, the regulations thereunder, for purchases of $100,000 or more.''

Especially during these trying economic times, it is important that Amtrak, a taxpayer-subsidized agency that has never turned a profit, support American businesses and jobs. In fact, one of the most important ways Amtrak could help the American economy is by buying American, especially by buying American oil.

Amtrak runs on diesel fuel, and diesel prices in our Nation are at an all-time high. For the past several months, when I was at home in Nevada, the number one issue on the minds of my constituents was the high price of fuel. I am sure there is no difference than any other district, since fuel costs have reached record highs across this Nation.

In fact, this week some of my constituents were in town and came by the office. In talking with them, I was vividly reminded just how the high cost of fuel, spurred by congressional inaction, is hurting families in my district.

The Anderson family lives in Carson City with their two kids, Steve and Sarah. They are a model American middle class family. The father is a dental lab technician, the mother is a nurse. Their kids are good students and play basketball and volleyball. But gasoline expenses are hurting their budget. Disposable income for them, just like all Americans, is disappearing as they drop their kids off to play sports or attend their kids' games.

Record high fuel prices are not only crippling family budgets, but also public safety efforts, educational institutions, small businesses, and causing inflation in all manner of products and commodities.

Despite several promises from the majority party, however, we have seen nothing that would truly help consumers with the high cost of fuel today. Yet, April 18, 2006, more than 2 years ago, then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated, ``Democrats have a plan to lower gas prices.'' Again, April 24, 2006, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying, ``Democrats have a commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices.''

The parade of bold statements promising help for the American consumers continues. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, October 2005 said, ``Democrats believe we can do more for the American people who are struggling to deal with high gas prices.''

Not to be outdone, Democrat Whip Jim Clyburn said, ``House Democrats have a plan to help curb rising gas prices'' in July of 2006.

And Madam Speaker, we haven't seen the results of these plans. The American people would like to see the plan.

Mr. HELLER of Nevada. Madam Speaker, I rise today to offer a motion to instruct conferees on H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act of 2008. This simple motion directs the House-Senate conferees to insist upon section 221 of the House bill, which states that ``Amtrak shall be subject to the Buy American Act, the regulations thereunder, for purchases of $100,000 or more.''

Especially during these trying economic times, it is important that Amtrak, a taxpayer-subsidized agency that has never turned a profit, support American businesses and jobs. In fact, one of the most important ways Amtrak could help the American economy is by buying American, especially by buying American oil.

Amtrak runs on diesel fuel, and diesel prices in our Nation are at an all-time high. For the past several months, when I was at home in Nevada, the number one issue on the minds of my constituents was the high price of fuel. I am sure there is no difference than any other district, since fuel costs have reached record highs across this Nation.

In fact, this week some of my constituents were in town and came by the office. In talking with them, I was vividly reminded just how the high cost of fuel, spurred by congressional inaction, is hurting families in my district.

The Anderson family lives in Carson City with their two kids, Steve and Sarah. They are a model American middle class family. The father is a dental lab technician, the mother is a nurse. Their kids are good students and play basketball and volleyball. But gasoline expenses are hurting their budget. Disposable income for them, just like all Americans, is disappearing as they drop their kids off to play sports or attend their kids' games.

Record high fuel prices are not only crippling family budgets, but also public safety efforts, educational institutions, small businesses, and causing inflation in all manner of products and commodities.

Despite several promises from the majority party, however, we have seen nothing that would truly help consumers with the high cost of fuel today. Yet, April 18, 2006, more than 2 years ago, then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated, ``Democrats have a plan to lower gas prices.'' Again, April 24, 2006, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying, ``Democrats have a commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices.''

The parade of bold statements promising help for the American consumers continues. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, October 2005 said, ``Democrats believe we can do more for the American people who are struggling to deal with high gas prices.''

Not to be outdone, Democrat Whip Jim Clyburn said, ``House Democrats have a plan to help curb rising gas prices'' in July of 2006.

And Madam Speaker, we haven't seen the results of these plans. The American people would like to see the plan.

Mr. HELLER of Nevada. Madam Speaker, Americans are now paying on average $1.67 more per gallon than they were when the 110th Congress began. In Nevada, since the 110th Congress began, gasoline has increased about $1.50 per gallon. So far this year, crude prices have increased 40 percent.

Since passage of H.R. 6, a so-called comprehensive energy bill, in December of 2007 gas prices have risen nearly 10 percent, diesel prices have risen more than 16 percent, oil has reached all-time highs. Clearly this bill was not the answer to our fuel problems. Clearly whatever the House majority is doing, badgering corporate executives, berating the President, holding hearings after hearings wasting time, is not working. It's not the commonsense plan we were promised. Tax increases on fuels are not part of the commonsense solution and are not a substitute for a real energy policy.

I have spoken to more than 100,000 households in Nevada during the course of some telephone/town hall meetings and have asked, Do you support the proposed 50 cent per gallon gas tax?

Eighty-two percent oppose this tax increase sending a clear message that the people of Nevada oppose these outrageous plans.

Additionally, tax increases that affect oil companies also hurt retirees, seniors, and pension funds. In 2004, more than 2,600 pension funds run by Federal, State, and local governments held almost $64 billion in shares of U.S. oil and natural gas companies. These funds represent the major retirement security for the Nation's current and retired soldiers, teachers, and police and fire personnel at every level of government. Fourteen percent of shares are held in IRAs and other personal retirement accounts. Forty-five million U.S. households have IRAs and other personal retirement accounts.

The effects of a punitive windfall profits tax on the energy industry would likely be the same as when it was tried last in the 1980s reducing investment in domestic oil production. The windfall profits tax during the Carter administration drained billions of dollars from the industry which was money not spent on U.S. exploration and production. Furthermore, the windfall profits tax failed to raise a fraction of the projected revenue.

Consequently, like most of the House and Senate Republicans, I have voted against billions in tax increases on energy companies which have only been passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. With billions in tax increases being put forth in the House, not one of them has passed the Senate. Clearly this approach is not consensus and is not part of a commonsense plan to address high fuel prices.

While speculation may have a significant effect on oil prices, this process can work in reverse as well. Merely the announcement that Congress is willing to allow full debate on the issues or that certain moratoria will be lifted will cause energy prices to react accordingly. In fact, I have requested a hearing on this issue at the Financial Services Committee on which the committee has some jurisdiction.

A real energy policy will address a variety of measures, including the very basic cause of high prices, supply, and demand. Congress desperately needs to address refinery expansion, coal-to-liquid technologies, lifting offshore moratoria, oil shale, and other areas that will address skyrocketing gasoline and diesel prices.

Our Nation hasn't built a new refinery in more than 30 years, yet demand for refined petroleum has continued to increase. Estimates show the world's energy needs will be 50 percent higher in 2030 with 55 to 65 percent of demand from conventional oil and gas.

The last time Congress opened access of a large oil field to develop was in 1973. The Congressional Research Service notes that 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are classified as undiscovered resources right here in this country and are offshore. Yet Congress has imposed moratoria on much of the Outer Continental Shelf since 1982. This oil represents about 33 percent of Saudi Arabia's proven reserves.

ANWR holds billions of barrels of oil that we intentionally refuse to develop. The U.S. is the only Nation that closes off its own reserves, its own natural resources and willfully subjects its economic future to the whims of oil dictatorships like Venezuela.

Russia and the volatile Middle East can hold sway over the American economy not because they can but because we allow them to. China, a Communist country, is exploring for oil with the consent of Cuba, another Communist country right off our shores. In what economic world does that make commonsense?

Simply put, we cannot conserve, tax, or regulate our way out of this problem. Nor should we cajole our way out by begging foreign nations for help. Renewable and alternative sources of energy, which enjoy bipartisan support, are simply not a realistic, cost-effective option today.

The reality today is that our Nation, now and into the foreseeable immediate future, runs on gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum products. Recognizing this reality and doing something about it is critical to our economy, public safety, education, tourism, and other areas.

The House should encourage buying American oil just as we encourage buying American products. In the meantime, this House should have a real broad, open, and forthright energy debate, not a series of small-bore suspension calendar bills that merely tinker around the edges. Congress must address all of the energy and fuel issues gripping this Nation the way the American people understand.

Let the will of the House work in a fashion that our constituents can follow and appreciate. The American people, like the Andersons and so many others in my district and nationwide, are demanding answers and demanding action. We should respond accordingly.

Support this motion to instruct and support buying American, including American energy.

Mr. HELLER of Nevada. Madam Speaker, I have some final thoughts I'd like to share with this body, and I want to thank the chairman for his patience on this particular issue.

It was well-addressed by the gentlewoman from Minnesota, the amount of time and the time and the energy we spent up in ANWR, but I want to talk a little bit about the energy renewable laboratory in Golden, Colorado, where we also spent some time.

I found the statistics and the issues there very, very interesting. I'm one who thinks that we have a three-pronged chair here that's very important in our energy future. We want, of course, to be in conservation, which I believe the American people understand that conservation is a critical part. Renewable energy is also the third leg of that chair which is very critical. And also finding additional sources of energy through our natural resources is very critical.

I want to talk about the National Renewable Energy Lab that we spent some time with out there. We saw and drove in electric cars. We saw and drove in hydrogen cars, and obviously, we saw the hybrid cars, also.

I just want to mention briefly that renewable energy is the future, but I believe it's a long-term future. Let me give you an example.

Five or 6 years ago, I drove in a hydrogen car down in Las Vegas. I got a phone call from the other end of the State, come on down, drive this hydrogen car. I thought it was a great idea, went down there, drove in a hydrogen car, went around the block, got out of the car, and I asked the gentleman: So what does it cost? How much does it cost for a consumer to buy this hydrogen car? He told me it was $1 million, $1 million for this hydrogen car.

Well, Madam Speaker, I drove a hydrogen car last week, drove it around the block, got done, opened the door, asked the gentleman: So how much does this car cost? And the car still cost $1 million dollars, $1 million for a hydrogen car. I don't have very many constituents that are willing to go out today and buy a $1 million car.

So we drove the electric car, drove it around the block, ran fine, asked the question: How far does the car go? He said, well, about 70 miles on a charge. How long does it take to charge? About 6 minutes. How much does this car cost? Very expensive, over $100,000. I said, well, what would it take, what would it take to get an electric car that goes 300 miles at 60 miles an hour that charges in 10 to 15 minutes and costs less than $30,000 but it will go 60 miles an hour? That's what the consumers want here in this country, and they say we're not even close. We're not even close to that.

Renewables are incredibly important; the technology isn't there today. So that is the purpose that we continue to go up to ANWR, take a look at ANWR, talk about additional oils.

I will tell you, what struck me on my trip up to ANWR was this; that if we conserve--and the American people are conserving and they'll do more to conserve--if we build renewable energy, look for cars, look for opportunities, the technology for renewable energies, and meet our goals--our goal here in this Congress I believe is 15 percent by the year 2020--if we meet those goals, we are still going to need an additional 10 million barrels a day of oil by the year 2025. Even if we conserve, even if we do all the renewable efforts--and the American people are doing that--we're still going to go from 15 million barrels of oil a day to 25 million barrels a day by the year 2025. That's why it's critical. That's why we went up to ANWR. That's why we want to take a look at the opportunity to open up the Outer Continental Shelf, to look at the northern shore of Alaska. I think these principles are critical, that's why we did that.


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