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Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I appreciate what Senator Murkowski is trying to do. Maybe this is a balance-of-power issue. The court ruled, I think in 2007, that greenhouse gases could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Senator Voinovich is right. Congress has never made that decision. There have been efforts in the past to get carbon pollution regulation by the Clean Air Act, but it was never passed legislatively. The courts have spoken.
The tool being used today is a legislative tool available to the Congress to basically put regulatory powers in check, and what we are doing by passing this amendment is basically stopping the EPA from regulating carbon. And here is the real rub: If we stop them, are we going to do anything?
My view is that we need to do several things to replace the EPA. The EPA regulation of carbon cannot provide transition assistance to businesses. They don't have the flexibility or the tools necessary to create rational energy policy. That would create an economic burden at a time we need to create economic opportunity. So I think the regulatory system of dealing with carbon pollution is the wrong way to go, but to do nothing would be equally bad. To do nothing means China is going to develop the green energy technology that is coming in the 21st century.
What I propose is that the Congress, once we stop the EPA, create a rational way forward on energy policy that includes clean air and regulation of carbon.
No. 1, the trust fund that is used to build roads and bridges is tremendously underfunded. Senator Inhofe and others have challenged the Congress time and time again to do something about shortfalls in the highway trust fund.
To the transportation community, if you are listening out there, you have a chance, as a broader package, to be part of a broader deal to get money for the highway trust fund. But you will never do it standing alone. We are not going to raise taxes to put money in the transportation trust fund and that is all we do.
I think the transportation sector needs to be looked at anew. How can we lower emissions on the transportation side, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and replenish the trust fund? I would argue that Congress could come up with policies that would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions coming from cars and trucks without a cap on carbon; that we could have incentives on the transportation side to develop alternative vehicles--battery-powered cars, hydrogen-powered cars, hybrid cars in different fashions that would break our dependency on foreign oil.
If you take this debate and separate it from our dependency on foreign oil, you have made a huge mistake. Madam President, $439 billion was sent overseas by the United States last year to buy oil from countries that don't like us very much. When you talk about controlling carbon, you ought to be talking about energy independence.
I suggest that Congress look at the transportation sector with a comprehensive approach that will reduce our dependency on foreign oil, that will create vehicles that are more energy efficient and produce less carbon to clean up the air, and you can do all that without a cap and put money into the trust fund to rebuild bridges and roads that are falling apart as America grows. These are jobs that will never go to China. We need to have a vision on transportation that needs to be part of our broader vision.
When it comes to breaking our dependency on foreign oil, we need to use less oil in general. The President is right. A low-carbon economy is a safer America, a cleaner environment and I think a more prosperous America. But we have natural fossil fuel assets in this country. We have oil and gas.
The gulf oilspill is a tremendously catastrophic environmental disaster, but if we overreact and say we are going to stop exploring for domestic oil and gas--9 million barrels a day comes from domestic exploration, and we use 21 million barrels a day--the people in the Mideast would cheer that policy. The biggest winner in stopping domestic exploration for oil and gas would be OPEC nations. So it is not in our national security interest, not in our economic interest to make a rash decision on oil and gas exploration.
I encourage the Congress to slow down, find ways to safely explore for oil and gas, and make it part of an overall energy vision that will allow us to break our dependency on foreign oil.
When it comes to job creation, wind, solar, battery, and nuclear power--all of the energy efficiency green technology that will come in this century is going to come from China if we don't get our act together. We need a rational energy policy that would incentivize alternative energy to be developed in America before the world takes over this emerging market. That means incentives for wind, solar, and, yes, nuclear power. Twenty percent of our power comes from the nuclear industry, and 82 percent of the French economy's power comes from the nuclear industry. Surely we can be as bold as the French. If you had a renaissance of nuclear power in this country, you could create millions of jobs. We could come up with ways to treat the waste.
President Obama has been very good on nuclear power. His administration, with Secretary Chu, has been excellent in trying to develop incentives to expand nuclear power in a safe fashion.
Carbon is bad. Let's do something about it in a commonsense way. You don't have to believe in global warming to want clean air. This idea about what to do with carbon--you don't have to believe the planet is going to melt tomorrow, but this idea that what comes out of cars and trucks and coal-fired plants is good for us makes no sense to me. If we can clean up the air in America, we would be doing the next generation and the world a great service. The key is, can you clean up the air and make it good business? I believe you can. Let's pursue both things: good business and clean air.
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