Search Form
Now choose a category »

Public Statements

Ethanol

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. I thank the Chair.

These are interesting days in our country. We find ourselves in a very deep hole, and it is not the fault of the people; it is the fault of the Congress. We continue to spend money we do not have on things we do not need. When we do that personally, we end up filing bankruptcy. Pretty soon, we run out of new credit cards to take on, and we get to the point where we can't pay our debts. That is a question that is in front of our country today as our economy is struggling and we have this massive debt. We ought to be about every small, medium, and large step we can take to solve the problem, not to solve the problem by saying we can't pay our bills but to solve the problem so we create a prosperous future for our kids and those who follow us.

There is a lot of controversy over the amendment I offered, and it is inaccurately claimed by the majority leader that this amendment was rule XIV'd. It was not rule XIV'd. According to the procedures of the Senate, you can file cloture on any amendment at any time. That is a privilege every Senator has. Why would somebody file cloture on an amendment? It is because, over the first 5 1/2 months of this year, through the leadership of the Senate, we have been unable to have a free and open debate and free and open offering of amendments. Because the procedure is rarely used does not mean it is not ethical and not accurate. As a matter of fact, the reason the procedure was put there was in case at a point in time your rights as a Senator to offer amendments are being limited by the majority. That is why we have this rule. Because you can take 16 of your colleagues and file a cloture petition and, therefore, have a vote on your amendment.

So what we are hearing going on in the background today is, the reason you shouldn't vote for this amendment, even though you agree we should get rid of and save $3 billion, much as the Senator from California outlined, $3 billion that the very people who are blending and receiving the $3 billion don't want, the argument is, it is because they don't like the way the amendment came to the floor. Explain to the people at home, you have an opportunity to save this country $3 billion and you know it is the right policy, but you are not going to vote for it because you don't like the way the amendment came to the floor. I would remind my colleagues that of the $3 billion we are going to save, 1.2 billion of it we are going to borrow from China, if we go on and spend it, and we are going to charge that 1.2 billion to our kids and grandkids. The interesting point is, we have grown, over 20-some years, to rely on ethanol for 7 percent of our fuel, and it has been a very expensive process. It is expensive directly because when you go to buy gasoline today, it is not the price you pay at the pump that you are actually paying. Take all the subsidies and all the tax credits and all the low-interest loans and all the nonrepayment of all the grants and all the moneys that have been put into this program, and when you buy that tank of gas, every gallon that you put into your car after you pay for it, you already paid $1.72 through your taxes to have that gallon there.

So we are not getting rid of the mandate on ethanol. It is 7 1/2 percent. It has helped us in some ways. It is a very inefficient fuel that causes us to consume more fuel, produce more CO

2. But the fact is, we have an amendment in the Chamber that is designed to take away a subsidy, and the only reason we are taking away the subsidy is because in law we are saying you have to do it anyway.

I would introduce, for the record, a letter from the refiners that states--this is the National Petroleum Refiners Association, representing 97 percent of the people who get this tax credit--97 percent of the $3 billion. They say they don't want the $3 billion. The vote is going to come down to something very clear. We are going to give $3 billion to some of the most profitable companies in America or we are not. The interesting fact is, they are saying: Please don't give it to us. Please don't give us this money.

Think of the time when we are borrowing the money to give to them and they are saying don't give it to us. We are going to have a vote in the Chamber and very likely not win because of a procedure or because of parochial interests. The fact is, every gallon of ethanol that is blended to gasoline, whoever does the blending, gets 45 cents a gallon, and they don't need it because they are going to blend it anyway. So the real question is, Will we continue to be ignorant in Washington of the common sense the American people want us to have? The common sense is, if you are paying somebody to do something and by law they have to do it anyway and then they write you a letter and say: Please don't pay me anymore to do this, I am going to do it anyway, why would we continue to send them the money? Why would we continue to do that, especially when 40 percent of it we have to borrow from the Chinese to be able to pay it to the American oil company? It makes no sense. There is no logic you can come up with. The calculations out of Iowa State University on this $3 billion is that the amount of jobs that have come out of this in the past cost $14 million a year per job--14 million a year per job created out of this subsidy.

No wonder we are broke. No wonder we are failing financially. No wonder we are failing our children and our grandchildren, because we continue to do things that don't have any correlation with logic or common sense. I know the arguments. I know the argument is that, well, we passed this last year as part of the extension. Well, as a Republican, I was one of the few Republicans who did not vote for that extension. Because not only did we pass additional tax cuts and additional unpaid programs, we cut no spending to be able to pay for it. So what we did was borrow a whole bunch more money and not solve any of the critical issues that lie in front of our country.

Forty percent of last year's corn crop went to ethanol. As a matter of fact, there is so much ethanol production, last year we shipped 400 million gallons overseas. That is great, except when you take the time to think about that with that 400 million gallons, we sent $500 million worth of subsidy. So now we are subsidizing the ethanol that goes to Europe with your tax dollars so they can have cheaper

gasoline than we have, because they are taking $1.72 per gallon and getting the benefit of our tax dollars to have cheaper ethanol in Europe than they can get from other places.

So there is nothing about this that makes sense, other than if you are a wonk and study the politics and the procedures and the parochialism that goes on inside the political body. That is what has gotten us into trouble. We are more interested in power and position and party. I am sick of both parties. We better start focusing on the real problems in front of our country. We are going to have a $1.7 trillion deficit this year, and the way you get rid of that is 1 billion or 2 billion or 3 billion at a time.

Here is something that makes absolutely no sense. Here is something that has no true demand for it. Here is something that is $3 billion that the people we are paying it to say they don't want, and we are not going to take them up on it? What part of stupid are we? This is like a Ferrell movie. It doesn't make sense. It is comedic.

We have had a lot of debate. Let me just talk for a minute about what is going on in the agricultural community throughout this country if you are a poultry, milk or livestock producer.

You can't bring your cattle to feedlots right now because corn is too expensive--$7.65 a bushel yesterday. You can't afford to fatten your cattle, so they are not bringing them in from the range. We are slaughtering dairy cows all across this country because 70 percent of the cost of dairy cattle is the corn you feed them. We are going to get all sorts of untoward interruptions and price increases in our food if we continue this policy. Seventy percent of the cost for chickens is feed. We are having chicken processors close and go into bankruptcy. We are having chicken raisers, the actual chicken farms--a lot in Oklahoma, a lot in Arkansas, a lot throughout the South, even over in Delaware and in Virginia--can't afford to feed the chickens. So what is going to happen because we have this false subsidy? The fact is, right now, 15 percent of the food increases in this country that you have seen in the last year are directly associated with this policy--directly associated with this policy. That doesn't have any effect on the fact that what could we do by sending $7 corn out of this country to our balance of payments, which would help our trade imbalance? Instead, we are burning it, and it is a highly inefficient fuel. It is a highly inefficient fuel. Everybody knows that when they fill up with 15 percent or 10 percent ethanol, they get much poorer gas mileage. Everybody knows that. In Oklahoma, we have all these stations where it says ``ethanol free.'' Why do people pay 10 or 15 cents more a gallon? Because they win on mileage. They actually get better performance when they don't have ethanol in their fuel. We all know that. It is just in some States you don't have that option. We are fortunate. We can still buy real gas.

I understand we have about 3 minutes remaining. I will close with the following statement. This is going to be a historic vote, not about ethanol, not about subsidies. It is going to be a historic vote that sends a signal to the American people. Either the people in Washington get it and are going to stop wasting money on programs they don't need to waste money on and they are going to start acting in the best long-term interests of the country, they are either going to do that or they are not. So when we see the results of this vote, you are going to have a hard time explaining: I voted against that because I didn't like the way the amendment came up. The fact is, here is $3 billion we don't have to spend over the next 6 months. If we don't spend it, that is $3 billion we are not going to have to borrow from our children and that they are not going to be paying interest on for the next 30 years.

This comes down to the point in time, does this Senate recognize the amount of trouble we are in, and are Senators willing to give up parochial interests, procedural interests, are they willing to do what is necessary to put this country back on course? My hope and prayer is they are.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top