BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. DORGAN. Madam President, I decided some long while ago that I was going to leave the Congress after serving 30 years. So at the end of this year, I will conclude my work here in the U.S. Congress. But I was thinking--sitting in the Chamber, listening to my two colleagues, for whom I have great respect and profound disagreements with--I was thinking about how interesting it is that people of good faith--and they are two Senators of good faith--can feel very strongly about an issue. I feel differently about some of the issues they just described, and I sat here and resisted the urge to jump up every 5 or 10 minutes and engage in that discussion.
It is not a difference of opinion about whether we would like the American people to pay the lowest rate of taxes possible; it is, rather, in my judgment, about the rearview mirror of history, when historians gather 50 and 100 years from now and look back at this moment and say: All right, where was America then?
Well, America had a $13 trillion debt, a $1.3 trillion deficit. We are sending men and women off to war by the hundreds of thousands, strapping on body armor in the morning, getting shot at in the afternoon. About 20 million people are either unemployed or not working up to their potential because they could not find the job that fits them. There are record numbers of people on food stamps. So that is where America was then. And what was the debate on the floor of the Congress? How can you further cut revenue?
How can you borrow money from the Chinese in order to give those who make $1 million a year a $100,000 a year tax cut? They are going to say: Are you kidding me? That is what the discussion was? Wasn't there discussion about whether it was wise to borrow $4 trillion more to extend tax cuts that came in 2001 because the President--then-President George W. Bush--felt we were going to have surpluses forever? The first surplus was the year before he took office, the last year of Bill Clinton, the first budget surplus in 30 years. Then they said: OK, we predict we are going to have surpluses for the next 10. President Bush said: Well, let's give them back, with very big tax cuts, the bulk of which go to upper income folks. I didn't vote for that. I thought: Why don't we be a little conservative? What if something happens? Well, it did--a terrorist attack, a recession, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, debt as far as the eye can see, soldiers at war--and the discussion is how to further cut taxes, especially for upper income Americans. I am telling my colleagues, it is going to confound and confuse some future economists, how on Earth that could have been the major debate of the day in the Congress at this moment.
There is no preordained destiny for this country that this country will always be the dominant world power. That is not preordained. That will happen if this country begins again to make good decisions and tough decisions. People think times are tough now. They have been tougher in this country. Our parents and grandparents and those who came before them, those who homesteaded in sod huts, those who traveled and populated this country out of wagon trains under the Homestead Act to go and buy a place and build a farm and raise a family, they had it tough, but they built communities and built a country and they did the right things. They made tough decisions. It is not a tough decision for us to say all 100 of us want tax cuts--well, I would like it if nobody paid taxes, if nobody had to pay taxes. But who is going to pay for the cost of things we do together, such as build schools to educate kids, build roads to travel, pay for defense so we can protect this country and on and on and on?
So I didn't come to talk about that, but I couldn't resist at least the urge to say our requirement for this country is to look well ahead and to ask: How do we retain the capability in this country so we will still remain a world economic power? This country needs jobs. This country needs the resurrection of a manufacturing base. We will not long remain as a country, a world economic power, if we don't have world-class manufacturing capability--making stuff--making things that say ``Made in America.'' That ought to be the discussion: how to put America back to work. There is no social program as important as a good job that pays well, and too many Americans are out of work at this point with a sick economy. The solution is not a tax cut for everybody. That is akin to going to a quack doctor who has only one recipe. He has a jug of thick brown liquid, and no matter what you have--the hiccups, gout, liver trouble--he ladles out some thick brown liquid, and he says: There it is. Take that and it will make you better.
We have people who have that vision here. Any urge, any itch, give them a tax cut. How about the Federal budget deficit? How about controlling spending? Yes, we have to control some spending and cut the deficit. Let's cut some spending and let's ask people who should be paying taxes and aren't now to pay their fair share of taxes. That is what we ought to do.
All right. I have that at least a little bit out of my system today.
I came to talk about something else. I came to talk about unfinished business toward the end of this year. There is still the ability to reclaim some success in an area that I think is very important. It is true, as I have just described, that jobs are very important in this country. It is also true that the economy, fiscal policy, debt, and deficits are very important and we need to get a hold on them and deal with them and respond to them and fix this country's economy. But it is also important that we need to address the subject of energy, and we have tried; we have tried so hard. We can decide it doesn't matter much. We can act as though it is irrelevant. But then tomorrow morning, just for a moment, what if all the American people couldn't turn on or off the alarm clock or turn on the light or turn on the hot water heater to take a hot shower or turn on the toaster or the coffee maker? What if they couldn't turn on the ignition to get to work? What if they didn't have lights at work? We use energy 100 ways before we start work and never, ever think about it. What if the switch didn't work? What if the tank wasn't full?
Let me describe the danger because this is not irrelevant. It is not an idle issue that this country could very well find itself belly side up with an economy that couldn't work because we couldn't find the energy we need. About 60 percent of the oil we need and use in this country comes from other countries. I have described hundreds of times on the floor that we stick little straws in the Earth and we suck out oil. About 85 million barrels a day is sucked out of this planet. On this little spot called the United States of America, we need to use one-fourth of it. One-fourth of everything we suck out of this Earth has to come to the U.S.A. We are prodigious users of oil. Much of that oil comes from areas of the world that are very troubled. There are some that don't like us very much. We send them over $1 billion, in some cases $1.5 billion a day, every single day to buy their oil. My colleagues know and I know that in some parts of the world enough money spills from that oil barrel to help fund terrorism. We know it. If we are that vulnerable, if our economy is in that much need of oil from others, particularly troubled parts of the world, if tomorrow that supply were interrupted or shut off and if that meant that this country's economy would be belly up just like that, do we then decide to do nothing about it or do we do something about it to address it in the context of national security?
We have armies. We commit armies to trouble spots around the world to protect our interests. Those armies can only operate if they have food and fuel. They need both. Energy security is the same as national security, and we have ignored for so long this issue of vulnerability that exists with respect to our energy future.
I wish to talk about what we need to do, and I wish to talk about my disappointment that we come now to November, almost December, 3 weeks left perhaps in December, and last June a year ago we passed an energy bill out of the Energy Committee that was bipartisan. It did a lot to address our energy security. Yet we will likely end this year with unfinished business, leaving behind that progress.
I wish to talk a little about the unbelievable progress in this country. In 1830, it took 3 weeks to travel from Chicago to New York--3 weeks from Chicago to New York City. Twenty-five years later, you could do it in 3 days: the transcontinental railroad. The transcontinental railroad changed everything. Then the automobile, the automobile came along, first with an electric engine and then the internal combustion engine and then it needed a substantial amount of oil. Then our government said: We understand that, so anybody who is going to look for oil or gas, we want to give you a big, permanent tax benefit. It was in the public interest to do that. So for a century we have said to people: Go find oil and gas because we need it. We have incentivized that drilling here in this country.
If we think of what has happened over this period I have described in travel and technology, including the automobile, the light bulb--I mean, think of the impact both those innovations have had in our lives; pretty unbelievable.
One day on a Saturday I was in Grand Forks, ND, and I met with our oldest resident, Mary Schumacher, 111 years
old. She was spry--I shouldn't say ``spry'' because she wasn't moving very well, but she had a very keen mind and we were able to have a very good visit--111 years old. She talked to me about her memories of when she was 6 and watched the barn burn. She has a great memory. We talked about how things have changed in 100 years of her lifetime. By the way, I stopped at that nursing home to see Mary because I wasn't able to be there some months before when I was invited to go to her birthday party, and I was invited by her niece who showed up when I showed up that Saturday to visit Mary. Her niece put on the birthday party and her niece was 103 years old, in even better shape than Mary, moving around and fussing and making sure this visit with Mary was going well.
So we talked about the big changes in her life. I thought after I left there: Here is a person who has now lived over a century and she has seen everything. So let me think about her life.
In 1909--and she would have been nearly 10 years old then--in 1909, President Howard Taft, 5 foot 11 inches tall and 300 pounds, decided to get rid of the horse and buggy at the White House as the mode of transportation. He was the first President to decide he was going to buy an automobile. He bought a Baker electric car. President Taft might not have fit into a Mini Cooper had there been one back then, but he bought a Baker electric car, which goes to show batteries have a lot of power. There has been a lot of discussion about that these days. But isn't it interesting that an electric car for the White House in 1909--that is 100 years ago--that electric car, now a century later, 100 years later, is the subject of legislation I have on the floor of the Senate, along with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Senator Merkley of Oregon; the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, 100 years later. It is the new new thing. It is what we knew 100 years ago worked.
I wish to talk a little about these things and all the changes we have seen and why this issue is critical and why I feel so disappointed if we don't, in the final 3 weeks, at least take a portion of that which we know needs to be done and do it because there is bipartisan agreement on a couple of these issues.
Let me mention them quickly. One, a renewable electricity standard so we try to induce more renewable energy production in this country. That is bipartisan. We have cosponsors in the Senate, including Senator Brownback, who is a very strong supporter of that, a renewable electric standard. The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, which I have described, Senator Alexander and I and others, bipartisan; and the natural gas provision that Senator Reid and Senator Menendez have sponsored, that is also bipartisan. Those are things we can do and should do at the end of the year that is bipartisan that will advance our interests.
Why is it that energy is important? Well, one, the vulnerability to our economy if we were to see the supply of energy that is necessary shut off to this country at any point. So it is national security. No. 1, national security. No. 2, it is the issue of the domestic energy use and the conversion as a part of this national and energy security to conservation, No. 1, and the production of different kinds of energy, No. 2, and then, finally, the issue of environmental benefits of some of the changes that are necessary. We are coming to an intersection for the first time when we debate energy in which energy production and national security resulting from that comes to the same intersection as the issue of climate change. So everything is going to change. The question isn't whether, it is how. So I wish to talk just a bit about some of the things we can do, it seems to me, to address these matters.
Let me talk about electricity. We produce a lot of electricity from different sources, including coal and natural gas, and so on. Coal is our most abundant resource. Fifty percent of the electricity in this country comes from coal, but we have to use it differently because when we burn coal, we throw carbon into the air and we understand we can't continue to do that. So we need to find innovative ways to extract the carbon from coal to continue to use that resource. We can and we will, in my judgment. I chair the appropriations subcommittee that funds carbon capture technology. There are all kinds of people around this country doing innovative, wonderful, breathtaking things to find a way to decarbonize coal. It is going to happen, if we decide to make the investment in order to allow it to happen.
So electricity that comes from coal or natural gas and electric plants, one of the problems we have dealing with the electricity is the delivery from where it is produced to where it is needed. Back in the early days of moving electricity around, we would build a plant to produce the electricity and then a spiderweb network of transmission wires in a circle largely around the planet and that became the service area and they were not connected one to another. That is the way it was. Then, finally, we decided we needed to move electricity from one area to another, so we connected the grids, barely, but we never did go back and build a modern transmission system. The result is we have a system now that is not very reliable and can't effectively move power from where it is produced to where it is needed, particularly in the area of renewable power, where the wind blows and the Sun shines. Where you can produce wind energy and solar energy, we can't at this point have full effective capability to where you can move it to where you can produce it and where you need it.
So we need to build an interstate transmission system. We can't do that now. We need legislation to do that. We can't do it now as demonstrated by the fact that in the last 9 years, we have built 11,000 miles of natural gas pipeline to move natural gas around this country, and we have been able to build only 668 miles of interstate high-voltage transmission lines. Why? Because we have all kinds of jurisdictions that can say no and will say no, so you can't build transmission. So the legislation we passed out of the Energy Committee a year and a half ago now solved that problem, put us on the path to be able to build an interstate transmission system, a modern, rich system. We shouldn't lose that. We should proceed to get that opportunity in that legislation.
Let me talk a bit about oil and gas. We are actually producing more oil, for the first time--it has been a long while since we have been on the decline in production. Part of it is from my State. The Bakken formation is the largest formation of oil ever assessed in the history of the lower 48 States. There are up to 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. With that, plus the role shale plays in much of the country, we are beginning to produce a bit more oil and gas at this point. That will stop quickly if we can't continue what is called hydraulic fracturing. We have to deal with that big problem. Most of us in this Senate, who come from areas where we produce fossil energy, believe this has been done for 50 years without a problem, and now it is under some siege. If we can't do hydraulic fracturing, that promise of natural gas supplies and new oil will evaporate. We need to continue--and we will--with the production of oil and natural gas in this country.
I also am a supporter of the production of ethanol and the biofuels. I think it makes sense to extend our energy supply, if we can do it every single year, using biomass, corn-based ethanol. That makes a lot of sense to me. The other issue I mentioned is coal. We are going to have to find a way to use coal by extracting the carbon. I believe we can do that. We need to make a much greater effort. We have tried to do that in legislation in the last year or two.
Then we have nuclear energy. We will build some nuclear plants. We are going to do that. I believe we ought to do everything, and do it well, including wind, solar, geothermal. All of the renewables have great promise. I understand that in this country, for a long while, it was that real men dig and drill, and if you are somebody who supports wind or solar energy, go smoke your pipe, read a few books, and have a leather patch on your jacket. Real men dig and drill, and the rest of you are a bunch of nuisances. That was the thought that existed for a long time. It is not true anymore. We are going to dig and drill and do it differently and protect this country's environment. We are also going to incentivize and see the production of substantial amounts of additional energy from the wind and the Sun. It makes sense to do that, in order to expand our energy supply, protect our environment, produce additional jobs. All of these issues I have talked about are very job creating.
Yet, in many ways, the legislation we have worked on languishes because we are told we don't have time. This is urgent. It is about the vulnerability of our economy, about our national security, and it is about jobs. We ought to get about the business of deciding this is a priority.
If I can describe, in summary, here is how we address energy issues: Produce more, yes, in every area. Produce more wind and solar energy, incentivize it. Produce more oil--and we are doing that--and natural gas. Expand ethanol capabilities and geothermal. We can do all of these things. We are building nuclear plants now. We will see some new ones come online. As a country, we ought to do what the French are doing with respect to reprocessing and recycling and reduce that 100-percent body of waste down to 5 percent. That is what they have been doing for some while. We ought to do that--the renewables are so important--and then move toward the electric vehicle deployment, so we can take advantage of all of this. I mentioned to you that we produce about 85 million barrels a day of oil--about 21 million barrels here in the United States, about one-fourth of the oil, and 77 percent of the oil we use in this country is used in vehicles.
If you are going to reduce the use of oil and reduce our vulnerability from too many exports of oil, then you have to do something about transportation. That is why this electric vehicle issue is so very important. It is the same with respect to natural gas vehicles and long-haul trucking across a network in this country. Electric vehicles are important. I have always been a fan, as well, of hydrogen and fuel cells. I think it is probably just beyond electric vehicles. Also, a fuel cell vehicle runs on electricity. It is interesting to get in and drive a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and find that you can put your nose right down at the exhaust pipe, because it is just water vapor. It doesn't have a sound. It puts water vapor out the back and has twice the power at the wheel. I think that is what our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to drive. All of these issues are so important to this country's future.
Again, I end as I started, by saying how profoundly disappointing it is that at the end of the session we understand how important this issue is and how little has been able to be done. There is still time. We could pass legislation called the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act. We could do that. We could pass legislation calling for a renewable energy standard, renewable electricity standard. This isn't rocket science. These are not complex issues that people can't understand. They understand them. Both political parties have strong supporters for these things. As we turn to December, it seems to me that as we contemplate probably 3 weeks in December on the floor of the Senate, we ought to at least consider what portion of an energy system and energy future can we embrace that came out of the Energy Committee in the Senate. The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act is the legislation that came out most recently and passed 19 to 3 by the Energy Committee--strongly bipartisan. Why wouldn't we take that up? Why would we not complete work on that and advance this country's future?
The other day I talked about the two dune-buggy-size vehicles on the surface of Mars. I did it because I was talking to some people in North Dakota, who said nothing is going right, everything is going to hell in a hand basket, and nothing the government touches works for sure. They were down. I told them the story about the two dune-buggy-size vehicles we are driving on the surface of Mars. Five years ago, 1 week apart, we ignited rockets, and they lifted off on the west coast of the United States, and they were on their journey to Mars--1 week apart. The first rocket transported its payload to the surface of Mars, which landed on Mars with a thump and a bounce. It was in a shroud. When it stopped bouncing and stayed still, the shroud opened, and out of the shroud drove a dune-buggy-size vehicle on the surface of Mars. One week later, the second payload was deposited on the surface of Mars. The shroud bounced, opened, and the second vehicle drove off to the surface of Mars. That was 5 years ago. One's name is Spirit and one is Opportunity--two little vehicles, Spirit and Opportunity. They were supposed to last 90 days on the surface of Mars, giving us information about what we could learn about this strange planet.
Five years later, Spirit and Opportunity are still moving. It takes us 9 minutes to communicate with Spirit or Opportunity, to send them a message. At one point, Spirit fell dead asleep, and we communicated with a satellite orbiting Mars and had the satellite communicate with Spirit, and Spirit woke up. Spirit, they say, has an arm that was used to sample the soil of Mars. That arm has become just like old men become, rheumatoid and arthritic, and now hangs at a strange angle because of that machine arthritis it has, apparently. Also a wheel broke, among the five wheels, but it didn't fall off; it is hanging. As Spirit traverses the surface of Mars, it drags one wheel that digs a slightly deeper 2-inch hole in the surface of Mars, and the arthritic arm reaches back and tells us what is happening on Mars.
How is all of this happening? First of all, it is unbelievable engineering, right? Can you imagine the people who put this together, to send dune buggies we could drive on the surface of Mars, and then they last 5 years when they were supposed to last 90 days? How are they powered? Do they have a Briggs and Stratton engine and somebody pulls it and gets them started? No. They are powered by the Sun. They have solar cells that allow us to have the power to drive dune buggies on the surface of Mars. Is it beyond our reach to believe that if we can power dune buggies with solar cells on Mars, we can fix a few of these things here on planet Earth? Of course that is not beyond our reach. Of course we can do that. In fact, the very names of these dune buggies--Spirit and Opportunity--ought to be the names on these desks in this Chamber: Spirit and
I started by saying there is no preordained destiny for this country to do well. It always has done well. When I grew up, I knew we were the biggest, the strongest, the best, and had the most. We could beat anybody with one hand tied behind our back. That will not always be the case. We will not remain a world economic power, unless we make smart decisions. Our parents and grandparents did. Every parent in this country has sacrificed for their kids. I don't know what is in second, third, or fourth place to most people, but first place is their kids. The question is whether it is on fiscal policy or energy policy. The question is, what are we willing to do for our kids? What kind of future do we want to leave our kids? Do we want to leave them deep in debt or vulnerable on energy production, which may leave us in the dark one day? I don't think so. This country can do much better than that.
Neither party has been much of a political bargain recently. Both parties need to do better. I have strong feelings about which has better ideas at the moment, and I will not be partisan on the floor, except to say that this country deserves more. It is not just coming out here talking about how can we cut taxes for everybody; it is how do we tighten our belts and ask those who are supposed to pay taxes to pay them, getting deficits under control, and getting people back on payrolls, and incentivizing businesses to create jobs.
How do we address energy issues? It is time for this country to be serious--this Congress--about doing things that are necessary, which may require sacrifice from all of us. If young men and women are willing to leave their homes to go to Afghanistan today for a year because their country asks them to, we can do no less than make sacrifices that are thoughtful on behalf of our future, so they won't come home and find a bigger deficit and more unemployment, but instead that we made the tough decisions to fix these things. We are going to fix this because it is important for the country's future.
As I said when I started, this issue of energy is so very important and is unfinished business. In my judgment, we ought not to include at the end of this year an energy bill, or components of one, that I think could be very important to this country's future, to jobs, and to our national security.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT