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Public Statements

Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I will be brief in discussing both of the amendments.

The first amendment, amendment No. 411, is a simple amendment that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding the construction of ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities, which is the latest effort on the part of the ethanol lobby to take more and more of U.S. taxpayers' dollars.

I would remind my colleagues that taxpayers have already provided billions of dollars to ethanol producers over the last 30 years. Last year alone, the ethanol tax credit cost the taxpayers $6 billion. In the final hours of the last Congress, the ethanol tax credit was extended for an additional year and will likely cost taxpayers an additional $5 billion to $6 billion this year. Seeking to double-dip in the Federal Treasury, advocates for the ethanol industry are seeking taxpayer support for infrastructure for ethanol such as blender pumps and storage facilities.

The Department of Agriculture was happy to comply with the industry's request to fund infrastructure construction. On April 8, 2001, the Secretary of Agriculture issued a rule that--get this--would classify blender pumps as a renewable energy system. In other words, pumps are now a renewable energy system, which would qualify it for funding under the Rural Energy Assistance Program.

There is no one--no one--who believed the Rural Energy Assistance Program would apply to putting ethanol pumps and storage facilities in gas stations. When Congress created the Rural Energy Assistance Program, it didn't have any intention of paying gas station owners to upgrade their infrastructure and further subsidize the ethanol industry.

According to the USDA, an ethanol blender pump and tank could cost an average of $100,000 to $120,000 to install. With over 200,000 fuel pumps currently operating in the United States, it would cost over $20 billion to convert them all--a corporate welfare project of significant proportions.

I might point out that an amendment similar to this was overwhelmingly supported in the other body during the consideration of H.R. 1 by a vote of 261 to 158.

It is time we stop this. I am a well-known opponent of ethanol subsidies to start with because it has never been of any value. It has distorted the market, and it has been an incredible waste of taxpayers' dollars. But now they want to go further by having us pay as much as $20 billion so they can install, under the Rural Energy Assistance Program, blender pumps and storage facilities.

So the ethanol advocates today have issued a release opposing this amendment because it would enforce the foreign oil mandate over our transportation fuels marketplace by blocking a job-creating effort to promote the installation of flex pumps. So now this is all about jobs. We want to create jobs by spending taxpayers' dollars to build pumps.

I hope my colleagues will take a look at this and support this amendment.

The other amendment, amendment No. 412, basically eliminates Davis-Bacon requirements from this legislation. The issue of Davis-Bacon is well known. All it would do is, in my view, reduce costs by some 60 percent from market rates if we are indeed not imposing Davis-Bacon Act requirements.

While I am on the floor, I wish to mention to my colleagues that as we face increasing costs at the gas pump of $4 or more--there are predictions that the cost of gasoline and a barrel of oil will continue to increase--this administration continues to reject nuclear power in every possible way.

Yesterday, a House committee released the latest evidence detailing the administration's mishandling of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, providing further examples of this administration's blatantly political decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain project and close the facility.

I quote from the committee report:

Despite the President's continued assertions that his nuclear waste management policy decisions would be driven by sound science, the administration has repeatedly refused to provide a scientific or technical justification for its shutdown decision, instead simply stating that Yucca is not a workable option.

This coincides with an April 2011 GAO study that reported:

DOE decided to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository program because, according to the Department of Energy officials, it is not a workable option and there are better solutions that can achieve a broader national consensus. DOE did not cite technical or safety issues.

There is a simple reason that neither Department of Energy Secretary Chu nor any other member of the administration has put forth a single scientific justification on the decision not to move forward with Yucca Mountain--because there is none.

When the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected the Department of Energy's request to withdraw the license application, it noted:

Conceding that the Application is not flawed nor the site unsafe, the Secretary of Energy seeks to withdraw the Application with prejudice as a ``matter of policy'' because the Nevada site ``is not a workable option.''

In fact, according to the House report, the NRC staff review of DOE's Yucca Mountain license application agreed overwhelmingly with the Department of Energy on the scientific and technical issues associated with the site, ultimately concluding that the application complies with applicable Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety regulations necessary for the site to proceed to licensing for construction.

The political interference orchestrated by the administration comes with a very real cost. As of 2010, the taxpayers have spent $15 billion to research and develop the Yucca Mountain site.

In addition, even while the administration is attempting to terminate the place, the energy industry and therefore the ratepayers are still contributing to the Nuclear Waste Fund that was established to pay for a nuclear waste repository. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Nuclear Waste Fund is holding over $25 billion of ratepayers' money. To date, no one has stated whether the energy industry or the ratepayers will be refunded those fees, and it is likely the taxpayer will end up footing the bill for the lawsuits filed against the Federal Government by those who have been unfairly charged.

The need for a permanent waste repository remains clear. In fact, a draft subcommittee report from the President's blue ribbon commission on nuclear waste stated that ``permanent disposal of nuclear waste is needed under all reasonably foreseeable scenarios'' and that ``we do not believe that new technology developments in the next three to four decades will change the underlying need for a storage strategy combining interim sites with progress toward a permanent facility,'' thereby completely refuting statements by the administration that technology and temporary storage sites are a sufficient replacement for permanent disposal. In fact, the administration and the Secretary of Energy himself have publicly stated that our most promising technology to lessen the burden of storage--waste reprocessing--is not even being considered as a viable option for addressing waste-storage needs. Unfortunately, it has been reported that members of the commission have been told that under no circumstances are they allowed to recommend Yucca Mountain as a permanent waste repository--regardless of where the scientific evidence leads them.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the termination of Yucca Mountain would set back the opening of a new geologic repository by at least 20 years and cost billions of dollars. Of course, these billions would be in addition to the $15 billion taxpayers have already spent to research and develop the Yucca Mountain site. It is really a sad day when we allow politics or political influence to cause us to allow at least $15 billion of the taxpayers' money to be wasted and to really doom, to a large degree, the future of nuclear power in this country.

We need to have energy self-sufficiency. I believe in wind. I believe in tide. I believe in solar. But nuclear power must be a part of any equation if we are going to be truly energy independent. And by closing Yucca Mountain and by wasting already $15 billion of the taxpayers' money, we have made that goal much, much harder to reach.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

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