ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - April 21, 2005)
Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
With all due respect to the chairman, he claims that this section excludes New Mexico. I have a memo here from the Congressional Research Service that reads as follows: ``The proposed statutory language, section 631, does not appear to prohibit precisely the same sorts of projects envisioned by section 631 from occurring within New Mexico. This statute, section 631, even appears to permit the Department of Energy to fund these types of programs in New Mexico so long as there are alternative available sources of Federal funding that can be utilized.''
Also, I would point out funds are fungible. This $30 million could end up and free up funds committed elsewhere. A company can use the now freed-up money to mine in New Mexico. Thus, this subsidy would indirectly facilitate uranium mining in Navajo communities.
This has broader communications than just for my State. We should not be experimenting in communities' water supply anywhere. My amendment protects all communities near uranium mines from potentially having their water supplies polluted.
Section 631 also has very serious fiscal concerns. This proposed subsidy would lead to even further unsound policy. At a time of skyrocketing Federal deficits and in an uncertain economic future, we should not be giving away $30 million to the uranium industry. We have too many priorities that are not being met because of policies like this subsidy.
Taxpayers for Common Sense views this as an unfair corporate giveaway. We do not need more of this type of uranium development. Promoting this type of development does not safely provide new energy sources; instead, it increases the potential for drastically harming the environment and causing potential harm to thousands.
The case, Mr. Chairman, for this amendment is strong. This is corporate welfare, pure and simple. It is unwise use of taxpayer dollars and dangerous to my constituents. My amendment can prevent the potential damage this provision can inflict on the health of thousands of Native Americans. But as I stated earlier, this provision has implications to far more communities than in my district. The potential long-term damage this section could inflict on the environment is also immeasurable.
I ask my colleagues to take a close look at this and consider whether or not they would want this type of dangerous mining occurring in the neighborhoods of their constituents. I urge my colleagues to support my amendment, stop corporate welfare, help protect the health of Native Americans and help protect the environment.
In closing, I ask to include for the RECORD this list of organizations that are supporting my amendment to demonstrate the broad support we received from both New Mexico and nationally.
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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I regret that I cannot support this legislation.
There is nothing I'd rather vote for than a balanced energy bill that sets us on a forward-looking course--one that acknowledges that this country is overly dependent on a single energy source--fossil fuels--to the detriment of our environment, our national security, and our economy.
But at a time of sky-rocketing oil prices, this bill doesn't do what it needs to do--help us balance our energy portfolio and increase the contributions of alternative energy sources to our energy mix.
The bill is not all bad, of course. I support most of the provisions developed by the Science Committee, and I commend Chairman BOEHLERT and Ranking Member GORDON for their bipartisan approach.
In particular, I'm pleased that the Science Committee bill included generous authorization levels for renewable energy and energy efficiency R&D. As Co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, this funding is very important to me.
I am also pleased that this bill includes the Clean Green School Bus Act, a bill that Chairman BOEHLERT and I drafted that authorizes grants to help school districts replace aging diesel vehicles with clean, alternative fuel buses.
H.R. 6 also includes provisions from my bill, the Distributed Power Hybrid Energy Act, which would direct the Secretary of Energy to develop and implement a strategy for research, development, and demonstration of distributed power hybrid energy systems. It makes sense to focus our R&D priorities on distributed power hybrid systems that can both help improve power reliability and affordability and bring more efficiency and cleaner energy resources into the mix.
Unfortunately, though, this bill--like the ones we've debated twice before--remains all too reminiscent of that old Western movie--``the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.'' In fact, over the years it has only gotten worse and uglier.
One of the ugliest parts is the provision that would open to drilling the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
On that question, Congress is being asked to gamble on finding oil there. So, we first must decide what stakes we are willing to risk, and then weigh the odds. The stakes are the coastal plain. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it ``is critically important to the ecological integrity of the whole Arctic Refuge'' which is ``America's finest example of an intact, naturally functioning community of arctic/subarctic ecosystems.''
Estimates are that there is six months' supply of economically recoverable oil in the refuge's coastal plain. While the economically recoverable amount could increase along with higher oil prices, we know for certain that drilling will change everything on the coastal plain forever. It will never be wilderness again. We do not need to take that bet. There are less-sensitive places to drill--and even better alternatives, including conserving energy and more use of renewable resources.
But the idea of opening the refuge is only one example of misplaced priorities or flawed policies concerning this legislation.
This bill would provide oil and gas companies massive forgiveness of royalty payments. It would shift the cost of MTBE cleanup from MTBE manufacturers to taxpayers--an unfunded mandate on our communities. That should not have been included in the bill.
Further, the bill significantly weakens the Clean Air Act by exempting states from having to clean up their dirty air if some of their pollution comes from ``upwind'' states. It would exempt industry from requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act when they inject diesel fuel and other harmful chemicals into the ground during drilling.
It would repeal the heart of the National Environmental Policy Act for energy projects by eliminating the requirement that agencies examine alternatives that could lead to lesser harm or greater benefits. It would repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act, a law that protects consumers and investors from corporate abuses.
And then there are all the things the bill would not do. It would not increase vehicle fuel economy standards, which have been frozen since 1996. Raising CAFE standards is the single biggest step we can take to reduce oil consumption, since about half of the oil used in the U.S. goes into the gas tanks of our passenger vehicles. The bill does not give federal regulators the tools they need to prevent and punish the Enrons of the world who manipulate power markets. The bill does not suspend deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and instead put the oil on the marketplace, which could bring gasoline prices down.
Most importantly, according to analyses conducted by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, our need for imported oil will increase by 75 percent in twenty years under provisions in this bill.
Coloradans on average are already paying $2.25 for a gallon of regular gas. This bill will do nothing to bring those prices down.
Of the bill's total $8.1 billion in tax incentives, $7.5 billion (or 93 percent) is for traditional energy sources such as oil, natural gas, and nuclear power. The oil and gas industries are getting these massive subsidies from the taxpayer at the same time that their profits have never been higher.
I don't always agree with President Bush. But I think he is absolutely right about one thing--at $55 a barrel, we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore.
Instead, we need a strategy to wean our nation from its dependence on foreign oil.
Colorado is uniquely positioned to take advantage of alternative energy opportunities, such as wind and sun. Voters approved Amendment 37 last year, which is making a difference in our energy supply. Colorado is leading the nation in this area.
Not only are we producing cleaner, cheaper energy, we are also providing economic development in rural Colorado in places like Sterling and Holyoke. In fact, I am going to be doing a Harvesting Energy Tour in Northeastern Colorado this weekend with former Colorado House Speaker Lola Spradley, representatives from the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and renewable energy companies to talk about how renewable energy can be an economic development boon for rural Colorado.
But we need federal incentives to help move renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to the mainstream, and yet only 7 percent of the incentives in this bill would promote their development.
That's why--along with my colleague Representative ZACH WAMP, who co-chairs the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus with me--I offered amendments to the bill to make it more balanced. Our amendments would have extended the renewable energy production tax credit until 2008, would have extended the tax credit that individuals receive for purchasing hybrid vehicles, and would have increased and extended the business and residential solar tax credits. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership didn't allow them to be debated and voted on.
I also tried to improve the Resources Committee's energy bill provisions with an amendment dealing with oil shale language in the bill. The bill requires the Interior Department to set up a new leasing program for commercial development of oil shale, with final regulations to be in place by the end of next year. In other words, it calls for a crash program to meet a short, arbitrary deadline.
My amendment would not have barred oil shale development. Instead, it would have said that before we leap again, we should take a look and have a clear idea of where we are apt to land.
Colorado has the most significant amounts of oil shale--and also the most experience with oil shale fever. In Colorado, we have had several bouts of oil shale fever. The last one started during the 1970s energy crisis and ended abruptly on ``Black Sunday'' in 1982. That was when Exxon announced it was pulling out of the Colony shale project, an event that left an impact crater from the Western Slope to downtown Denver. That was followed by an exodus of other companies that had been working on oil shale--which led to an exodus of jobs and of Coloradans who had nowhere else to turn.
Under my amendment, Interior would be told to prepare regulations for a new oil shale leasing program--and to get them finished ``promptly'' after finishing the analysis required by NEPA and the regular process for developing new federal regulations.
Unfortunately, the Republican leadership of the Resources Committee opposed my amendment, and so it was not adopted. The result is that this part of the bill is much uglier than it should be.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we need a plan in place to increase our energy security. Thirteen percent of the twenty million barrels of oil we consume each day comes from the Persian Gulf. In fact, fully 30 percent of the world's oil supply comes from this same volatile and politically unstable region of the world. Yet with only 3 percent of the world's known oil reserves, we are not in a position to solve our energy vulnerability by drilling at home.
This bill does nothing to tackle this fundamental problem. For every step it takes to move us away from our oil/carbon-based economy, it takes two in the opposite direction. I only wish my colleagues in the House could understand that a vision of a clean energy future is not radical science fiction but is instead based on science and technology that exists today. Given the magnitude of the crisis ahead, we can surely put more public investment behind new energy sources that will free us from our dependence on oil.
Two days ago, at the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, President Bush attempted to draw parallels between his goal of expanding freedom in the world and Lincoln's effort to expand freedom in the U.S. I have some questions about that comparison, but I do think it is good to consider Lincoln's example when we debate public policy.
In fact, I wish President Bush and the Republicans would draw a few more parallels to Lincoln in their approach to energy policy--because, as that greatest of Republican Presidents said, ``The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. Our present is piled high with difficulties. We must think anew and act anew--then we will save our country.''
And while we are not engaged in a civil war, our excessive dependence on fossil energy is a pressing matter of national security. We have an energy crisis. We need to think anew to devise a better energy policy in order to save our country from this energy crisis.
Unfortunately, too much of this bill reflects not just a failure but an absolute refusal to think anew. Provision after provision reflects a stubborn insistence on old ideas--more tax subsidies, more royalty giveaways, more restrictions on public participation, more limits on environmental reviews--and a hostility to the search for new approaches.
Maybe we could have afforded such a mistake in the past. But now the stakes are too high--because, as I said, energy policy isn't just an economic issue, it's a national security issue. America's dependence on imported oil poses a risk to our homeland security and economic wellbeing. And so, Mr. Chairman, I must vote against it.
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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to oppose this flawed, shortsighted energy bill, which does not give us a national energy policy, and provides more than $22 billion in taxpayer dollars to the private industry. I'm not sure what era the authors of this bill think we're living in, but this bill does not reflect our present or future energy needs in the 21st Century.
High gas prices are on the minds of many Americans right now, and this bill does nothing to change that. The Energy Information Administration has said that this will actually increase gas prices by three cents and will have almost no effect on production, consumption, or prices. I suspect my constituents in New Mexico who are paying $2.32 a gallon will be concerned about that. But this is only one of the several reasons why I oppose this legislation.
One of my great concerns is the provision that allows drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR. I have been to Alaska and I've seen the tremendously diverse wildlife that will be hurt if drilling occurs in the area. In addition, there are native tribes who depend on this wildlife, and they have asked Congress and the state of Alaska to stand up for them and oppose drilling. The environmental costs of this provision are sky-high, and benefits are little to none--six month's supply of oil. Opening ANWR would have no effect on our dependence on foreign oil. It is simply not worth it.
How can the Majority call this bill ``comprehensive'' when it does nothing to address fuel efficiency in our vehicles? China will produce cars and trucks that are more energy-efficient than the U.S. fleet as soon as 2008. That is why I strongly supported the amendment offered by Rep. MARKEY of Massachusetts to raise the average of 25 miles per gallon to 33 miles per gallon over the next ten years. Raising fuel economy standards would reap SUV, pickup truck, and minivan owners a net savings of up to two thousand dollars in some cases. It would also alleviate the need for the U.S. to send over $25 million abroad each hour to pay for foreign oil. This amendment would have truly benefited our national security, our economy, and consumers.
I think my constituents will also be interested in the provision in this bill shielding lawsuits against oil companies who used methyl tertiary-butyl ether, MTBE, which has contaminated 1,861 water systems serving 45 million Americans in 29 states, including New Mexico. Documents from recent court cases reveal that the industry knew MTBE could cause severe harm to groundwater supplies as early as the mid 1980s. Internal Exxon memos from 1985 show the company knew MTBE pollutes groundwater more easily and is more difficult to treat than other gas additives. I find it incredibly disturbing
that some members of this body place the pockets of oil companies ahead of the constituents in their districts whose lives have been adversely affected by this negligence.
Another grave concern that I have is section 631, which is a $30 million dollar giveaway to a dangerous uranium mining technology that could seriously harm the water and health of 12,000 Navajo Indians. The proposed in-situ leach mining would leach uranium from an aquifer that is the sole source of drinking water for thousands of people in northwestern New Mexico, thereby threatening their health and the integrity of their communities. The proposed mining would leave high levels of uranium in the drinking water supply, which is a slap in the face of Navajo communities that are still struggling to get compensation for the diseases they are suffering from uranium mining conducted near them during the Cold War. This is also unsound fiscal policy for an unproven type of mining. I offered an amendment to strike this section of the bill. Unfortunately, it was defeated by a vote of 225-204. I have been told that these subsidies will not be included in the Senate bill. I hope that remains true, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that this provision is stripped from the bill in conference.
I brought two other amendments to the Rules Committee that were unfortunately not allowed a vote in the full House. One would create a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard, so that by the year 2022 electric utilities, excluding rural electric cooperatives, would generate 15 percent of their energy from renewable energy sources, and 20 percent by the year 2027. This bipartisan amendment was cosponsored by Rep. MARK UDALL of Colorado, Rep. LEACH of Iowa, and Rep. PLATTS of Pennsylvania. Right now, the U.S. relies on foreign oil to meet roughly 60 percent of our oil needs. This inevitably leaves us dependent on unfriendly nations and harms our national security. We consume a quarter of the world's oil, yet we only control two percent of its supply. It is high time we invest in renewable energy technologies and develop practical solutions to encourage renewable energy production. It is my hope that the Senate will move forward with a more progressive renewable energy policy in its version of the Energy bill.
My last amendment, which I cosponsored along with Rep. DINGELL of Michigan and Rep. BOEHLERT of New York, was designed to fix unnecessary inequities in the hydropower dam relicensing process proposed in H.R. 6, while still ensuring that the relicensing process proceeds quickly. This amendment applies all new rights given to a license applicant to any other party. All stakeholders--States, Tribes, private landowners, local businesses, fishermen, irrigators, conservationists, water sports enthusiasts, and other concerned citizens--would be given the chance to participate in decisions that affect the health of American rivers. I believe it is only fair to include these stakeholders in the appeals process, and I was disappointed that this amendment was not allowed a vote on the floor.
Why does the Majority insist on passing a bill full of tax incentives and subsidies for the oil and gas industry at a time of record profits for those companies? Even President Bush said last week, ``I will tell you with $55 oil we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore.'' The massive royalty tax breaks for energy companies are ill conceived. This bill is anti-taxpayer, anti-environmental, and anti-consumer.
We need a comprehensive energy policy that encourages safe domestic energy production, that will not drastically harm the environment and cause potential harm to thousands, and that does not contain billions of dollars in giveaways to big oil and gas companies. We need a real energy strategy that will help consumers, decrease our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and keep us competitive internationally. I ask my colleagues to join me in voting against this flawed bill, and I hope we can work toward a more comprehensive energy bill in the future
Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the Boehlert-Markey amendment to raise fuel economy standards for automobiles and I thank the gentlemen offering this amendment for yielding me time.
Mr. Chairman, we have heard it repeated over and over during debate on this bill from members on both sides of the aisle--we must reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, and we must stabilize our energy costs. Yet H.R. 6 does none of these things!
That is why I strongly support this amendment to raise the average of 25 miles per gallon to 33 miles per gallon over the next ten years. Increasing the fuel economy is one important step we can take towards making all this rhetoric a reality. This amendment truly does benefit our national security, our economy, and consumers.
Raising fuel economy standards would reap SUV, pickup truck, and minivan owners a net savings of up to two thousand dollars in some cases. It would also alleviate the need for the U.S. to send over $25 million abroad each hour to pay for foreign oil. These payments increase the trade imbalance, reduce the strength of the dollar, drive up-the cost of other imported goods, and stunts the growth of the nation's GDP.
In addition, many of the world's major auto-makers recently signed an agreement with the government of Canada that commits them to improving fuel economy standards by 25 percent by 2010. China will soon produce cars and trucks that are more energy-efficient than the U.S. fleet. Considering that the U.S. consumes a quarter of the world's oil, we must keep pace with these other countries and improve our fuel economy standards.
This amendment matches the rhetoric by truly reducing our dependence on foreign oil, helping our economy, and benefiting consumers. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.