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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, oil companies recently announced record profits. Those of us who drive cars and trucks could feel our wallets shrink at the news. Throughout most of this year, American drivers have paid the highest gas prices of all time--more so in the wake of refinery disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina. While petroleum company shareholders enjoy healthy stock dividends, the rest of us hemorrhage the cash. Industry analysts explain it away as ``business is business.''

Sound familiar? In the 1970s, political conflicts compelled Middle East oil sheiks to tighten their reins on oil production, sending shockwaves throughout our economy and creating long lines at the gas pump. Congress responded with laws promoting energy conservation and fuel efficiency that we thought would reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Unfortunately, 30 years later, here we are again. The Middle East remains in turmoil, and the engines of America remain firmly fueled on foreign oil. Exacerbating the problem is that the economies of China and India--two nations totaling over 2 billion citizens--are quickly expanding, and they are competing with the U.S. for the same pool of oil. Quite simply, worldwide production capacity cannot keep pace. And that means U.S. gas prices likely will remain high for the foreseeable future.

More so than at any other time in a generation, our economy is exposed. In the year 2035, will the American market be shackled still to foreign oil? Will we question whether bolder past policies could have prevented future crisis?

The response to these questions can be ``no'' if we begin now.

For about $100 worth of hoses and sensors, we can make our cars run on ethanol made from homegrown corn. Automakers made 1 million of these cars this year. We have the technology, and it is proven. With 200 million cars on the road, and 17 million more each year, why can't more cars run on ethanol?

The answer is they can, and that is why I am pleased to join my colleagues from Iowa and Indiana, Senators HARKIN and LUGAR, in introducing legislation to require all cars made in the United States to be ethanol-capable vehicles within 10 years.

Making ethanol cars is not expensive. It is less than the cost of airbags. It is less than the cost of a sunroof. It is less than the cost of foglights. It is less than the cost of a fancy CD player. It is less than the cost of heated seats.

Making ethanol cars is not restrictive. These cars are known as flexible fuel vehicles. Where ethanol is not yet available, you simply fill up with regular gas.

And making ethanol cars is good for American automakers, because American automakers have a head start. Already, 5 percent to 7 percent of their fleet can run on ethanol. We are only asking for an increase over a decade.

I remind my colleagues that the renewable fuels standard enacted in the Energy bill of 2005 will incorporate enough ethanol into our fuel supply to reduce the use of foreign oil. The Harkin-Lugar-Obama bill, if enacted, would accelerate that reduction. And we can do it without hardship, without requiring drivers to purchase matchbox cars, without proposing futuristic technologies that only our great-great-grandchildren's children will see.

The Harkin-Lugar-Obama bill transforms existing, inexpensive, and simple technology into a genuine movement towards energy independence for the United States within a time period that we all can witness. I urge my colleagues' swift approval of this legislation.

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