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Public Statements

The Gasoline Price Reduction Act of 2004

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


THE GASOLINE PRICE REDUCTION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - June 15, 2004)

Mr. BARTON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 4545) to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce the proliferation of boutique fuels, and for other purposes.

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

That was a very interesting speech. I do not think the speech really applied to the bill we have on the floor, though. I would first mention that this waiver authority is nothing different than the current waiver authority the EPA has. Last year when we had a pipeline break in Arizona when they could not get a lot of gasoline, the EPA waived certain parts of the Clean Air Act so they could get gas supplies to meet the demand that was occurring because they had a huge supply shock.

Now, I would like to set this issue up in the following way. What this bill does is recognize the fact that we can have cheap gas and clean gas in America. The goal here is to improve the Clean Air Act, make it function better and make our gas more affordable while maintaining every ounce of environmental standards that we already have on the books. This bill will help make it easier to meet the Clean Air Act, but let me put this issue in perspective.

When we started the Clean Air Act, we had a good idea. The idea in the Clean Air Act at the time was if your area has dirty air, you need to clean it up. One of the things you need to do is burn cleaner gasoline through your cars. A very good idea. The problem is when they wrote this law, they did not think of the fact that if they allow cities, counties, States to select their own kinds of gasoline, that they would cause this huge problem we have today. Here is the problem.

Please, Madam Speaker, look at this chart. What this chart shows is the map of America. It looks like a piece of modern art. It shows all of the different blends of gasoline that are required to occur in the summer in America. There are 16 different base blends of gasoline which translate today into 45 different fuels in America.

However, we have a pipeline and refinery infrastructure system in America that has not been upgraded since the 1970s. No new refineries have been built since 1976, and when we built that system we had one kind of gasoline flowing through America. Now because of the Clean Air Act, a very good law, but one that does not take into account this problem, when we go from winter-blend gasoline, which is basically conventional gas, to summer-blend gasoline, we move from one kind of gas to 45 different blends of gasoline required around America.

When we have our refinery capacity running at 96 percent, any little hiccup in supply, any little refinery fire that has happened all across America, a problem with the pipeline breaking like in St. Louis or Arizona, we have huge supply shortages and giant price spikes. What is more is all of these different blends of gasoline, we can have four different blends by going from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to St. Louis, Missouri. In Green Bay, they may have conventional gas; in Kenosha, they may have reformulated gas. Springfield, Illinois, may have a low RVP conventional gas. East St. Louis may have 7.0 RVP. Across the river in West St. Louis, they may have 7.2 RVP.

The problem is these gas lines are not fungible, even though in Detroit and Chicago and Milwaukee and St. Louis and Kansas City and Minneapolis we have the same environmental requirements. They are out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. They have the same requirements with respect to the fuel standards they have to achieve, but they all have different blends of gasoline, proprietary blends of gasoline.

What we want to do is bring common sense to this system. What this legislation does is it simply says we are going to have now a preferred list of fuels that people can choose from, local governments can choose from when they select their new gasoline blends to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act. We are capping the amount of boutique fuels so we do not proliferate more blends, but especially now when we go to the new 8-hour ozone requirement and we now recognize the fact that we have 42 areas of America, as we see on this chart, which have 45 different fuel blends, we are adding 82 new areas of America this year that are going to be out of compliance with the Clean Air Act because of the new 8-hour ozone standard.

As we add these new 82 areas, do we want to have that many more different kinds of fuel in America? No, we simply want to bring some common sense to the system so that when all these new areas of America have to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act, we want to give them guidance so they can pick from a list of preferred clean blends of fuel that are compliant with the Clean Air Act that are standard blends of fuel so we can standardize not only the kinds of fuels we use in America, but stabilize our supply of gasoline in America.

Why does that matter? Because gas is priced like any other commodity. It is priced based upon its supply. If we can stabilize the supply of gas, we can stabilize the price of gasoline and bring down the price of gasoline.

What the intent of this legislation is to do is to make sure in the short term if we have huge supply problems, a refinery fire or a pipeline break, we have the authority to meet those supply problems; but in the medium term and long term, make sure we standardize our blends of gasoline so we can comply with the Clean Air Act and have inexpensive, affordable, clean-burning gasoline.

What I believe this bill will actually achieve at the end of the day will be less expensive and more clean gas around America, even in areas that do not have to have clean gasoline. I think this is going to help us clean up our air, and it is going to help us have affordable gasoline.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute to respond.

Madam Speaker, this is the same kind of waiver authority they already have under law. This is included in the Bush administration energy plan. This was in the Bush administration energy policy recommendations to solidify and consolidate boutique fuels. We have had numerous studies on this issue. A very comprehensive study was done on this issue by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, which recommended doing exactly this. We had another study by the National Association of Convenience Stores recommending doing exactly this. Plus, we have already had multiple sources of testimony from gasoline marketers, from gasoline wholesalers, all talking about the need to consolidate the fuel blends. So this has been done based upon studies; this is a policy endorsed by the Bush administration. This is a policy talked about, vetted, and had hearings on for 3 years now.

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Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Green), a cosponsor of

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Madam Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Weldon).

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Ose).

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds. This does not give any extra waiver authority to the EPA that it does not already have.

This bill does not do a lot of the things he mentioned. It does very few things. What the intent of this bill is, is to have a preapproved list of fuels by the EPA for areas to choose from that

are clean fuels so that we consolidate the fuel blends we have in America. That is it. And then study and make sure we are doing it right. And if the study says there is another way to do it better, we will do that. That would be the fourth study we would have on this matter.

Mr. Speaker, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Blunt), the majority whip and cosponsor of this legislation, for the purpose of closing.

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