BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, amendment No. 1535, the Vitter amendment, is very simple and straightforward, and it goes to an awfully important issue. It goes to the issue of the price of energy, particularly the price of gasoline at the pump. There will be a vote today on this amendment. In fact, it will be the first vote we take this afternoon.
The amendment is very simple. It would allow us to go back to the previous lease plan for the Outer Continental Shelf, replacing the current Obama administration lease plan which cuts that previous plan in half and moves us in the wrong direction in terms of producing our abundance of domestic energy, including oil and natural gas.
Everybody is concerned about the rising price of oil at the pump. It is on the rise again. It is significantly increasing. And that hits middle and lower class families right in their pocketbooks, right where it hurts, and it is particularly harmful in a down economy. We are struggling to get out of this recession, we are trying to mount a recovery, we are trying to make positive things happen, and these increasing prices at the pump are hitting at the worst possible time.
What can we do about it? Well, there are a lot of things we can do, but certainly increasing supply, including domestic supply, is one major, positive thing we can do. We know that 88 percent of the price of an average gallon of gasoline is attributable to the cost of crude oil and taxes--88 percent. That only leaves 12 percent that is refining, marketing, and distribution. And, by the way, that 12 percent also includes the compliance cost for a host of mandates required by statutes and regulations related to refining, marketing, and distribution. So again, the huge bulk of that price represents the price of crude oil as well as taxes.
I could argue forcefully and present a lot of data that taxes on oil and gas are actually too high, but I don't expect a majority of this Senate to listen. So what we are left with as a way to impact those rising prices at the pump is to find more, develop more, increase supply, and that brings the price down worldwide. And we can do that starting right here at home.
Most Americans don't realize it, because of Federal policy, but the United States is the most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. When you look at all of our energy resources, certainly including oil and gas, the United States is the most energy rich, and we are far richer, by a long shot, in terms of those total energy resources, than any Middle Eastern country, such as Saudi Arabia. The only other country that comes close is Russia, and they are well behind.
The problem is the United States is also the only country in the world that puts about 90 percent of those resources off limits and says no, under current Federal law, under the current Obama administration lease plan, to drilling off the east coast, no to drilling off the west coast, no to production of energy in the eastern gulf--at least as of now--no to most things offshore Alaska, no to ANWR--the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge--and increasingly this administration wants to say no and wants to put up hurdles and blockages on lands where a lot of energy production is happening because of enormous shale finds and relatively new technology.
One major thing we can do to affect the price at the pump in the right direction--which would be to lower it--is to say yes instead of no to developing more of our domestic energy. Unfortunately, in the last several years, under President Obama, we have been moving in the opposite direction. We have been moving away from that production.
An excellent example is the Outer Continental Shelf. This first chart I will put up is the last lease plan--prior to the Obama administration--that was actually beginning to say yes in a significant way. This was the result of the outcry from the public--the appropriate outcry after the summer of 2008--the last time prices at the pump spiked so significantly. People said, wait a minute. Why aren't we producing more at home? Washington finally responded to that, and through this lease plan we were saying yes more and more. We were saying yes--green light--on the east coast; yes, do more in the gulf; yes, green light off the west coast; yes, do more in offshore Alaska.
Unfortunately, that came to a screeching halt under the Obama administration. One of the first energy actions this administration took--President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Salazar--was to very quickly cancel this lease plan. Once they took office, they scrapped this. Then they studied it for quite a while, with no lease plan in sight. Finally, several months ago, they announced and put forward their own lease plan--the first under the Obama administration. And what a difference an election makes. What a difference a change in administration makes. All of a sudden the green lights became red lights again. We reverted to the old policy of moratoria on production again and the answer, again, was no, no, no, no. No, off the east coast; no, for now, in the eastern gulf; no, offshore Alaska; no, off the west coast--no, no, no, no.
This plan is only half as much as the prior 5-year lease plan. So instead of moving in a positive direction, accessing more of our energy, including in the Outer Continental Shelf, we are backing up, we are turning around, and we are turning our backs on the needs of the American people. Again, we are saying no, no, no, no.
The Vitter amendment, No. 1535, would reverse that. It would say yes. It would say, no, this plan isn't a good idea. Let's go back to the prior 5-year lease plan. Let's develop, explore, and produce U.S. energy in a responsible way. Again, we are the single most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. We have enormous resources, including offshore, including oil and gas. But we are the only country in the world that says no, no, no, no, and that puts over 90 percent of those resources off limits.
This amendment will begin to change that. This amendment will reverse that mistaken policy. In so doing, it would significantly increase the supply of oil where we can control it most--right here at home. And when everything else stays the same--you increase supply, demand is the same--what happens? Price goes down. That is the first law of economics.
So let's say yes. Let's say yes to good, reliable U.S. energy, let's say yes to increased energy independence by doing more for ourselves right here at home, and let's say yes to great American jobs. Because that is also what this amendment would produce--jobs. And by definition these jobs can't be outsourced. You can't take good U.S. energy jobs and ship them to China or India. You can't do that, by definition.
Let's also say yes to this amendment because it would help with deficit and debt reduction. This increased activity would do what? It would produce significant Federal revenue. The Federal revenue or royalty on domestic energy production is the second biggest source of revenue to the Federal Government, second only to the Federal income tax.
Let's say yes. Let's do something about the rising price at the pump, and let's take control of our own destiny. Please support amendment No. 1535. As I said, I urge all of our colleagues to support this important amendment--Democrats and Republicans. It will be the first amendment vote we take this afternoon.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I certainly join with my two colleagues and others in strong, passionate support of the RESTORE Act amendment. As has been mentioned, that will be an upcoming vote, the fifth vote in line once we start voting very shortly.
This approach of dedicating any percent of the Clean Water Act fines just from the BP disaster to gulf coast restoration is widely supported on a bipartisan basis. The Obama administration strongly supports it, outside groups who have looked at the devastation in the gulf strongly support it all across the spectrum. This has been a concept that has been building for months, and there is strong and widespread support for this 80-percent dedication. That is reflected in the fact that the RESTORE amendment is a bipartisan push, a bipartisan bill, and now a bipartisan floor amendment. As Mary Landrieu and Senator Boxer mentioned, it had almost unanimous support coming out of the Environment and Public Works Committee. The cosponsors are fully bipartisan, so I urge all Members to join together in this effort.
This is completely deficit neutral. We have an offset built into the bill such that this bill does not increase the deficit in any way, shape, or form. Let me point out, the money we are using, as has been said, would not exist but for the BP disaster. There are fines paid by BP and others, so that money did not exist before the disaster, and yet we still offset that full amount with an offset. In essence, we are lowering the deficit compared to what it would have been but for the disaster and before that revenue created only by the disaster.
In addition, built into the bill in this latest version is significant funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has significant bipartisan support in the Senate. Again, all of that is fully offset so we are not increasing the deficit in any way, shape, or form. This is an offset that has been approved and used before, again, on a bipartisan basis. One of those previous votes using this same offset passed 98 to 0.
I urge all Members of the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to come together and please do the gulf coast right and do the Nation right in terms of this vitally important effort.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. VITTER. Madam President, I urge support of this amendment. It is bipartisan.
This concept is supported by multiple outside groups, as well as the administration, and it is fully offset. It does not increase the deficit.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT