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Udall: Energy Bill Does Nothing For Our Energy Security

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Udall: Energy Bill Does Nothing For Our Energy Security

"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.

"This bill provides oil and gas companies massive forgiveness of royalty payments. It exempts industry from requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act when they inject harmful chemicals into the ground during drilling. Of the bill's total $14.6 billion in tax incentives, $9.3 billion (or 64 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. Meanwhile, renewables and energy efficiency technologies are allocated $5.3 billion, or just 26% of the total incentives in the bill.

"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. This bill avoids the whole question of mandatory action on climate change, excluding even the toothless Senate-passed resolution that recognized the need for immediate action by Congress to implement mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

"It also does not include the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), part of the Senate-passed bill, which would require utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Colorado is uniquely positioned to take advantage of alternative energy opportunities, such as wind and sun. Colorado's voters approved Amendment 37 last year, a state RPS, which is making a difference in our energy supply.

"But a federal RPS would yield numerous rewards in the long-term for the whole country, including increased energy independence and security, economic development opportunities in depressed communities, maintaining a competitive advantage internationally, protecting our environment, and helping our farmers develop long-term income sources. The absence of an RPS in this bill is a serious setback for forward-thinking energy policy.

"Most importantly, according to analyses conducted by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, this energy bill will neither lower gas prices nor reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, with foreign imports predicted to increase from 58% to 68% in the next twenty years. Coloradans on average are already on average $2.25 for a gallon of regular gas. This bill will do nothing to bring those prices down.

"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 fossil fuels, especially foreign oil.

"In conclusion, we need a plan in place to increase our energy security. 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. Our excessive dependence on fossil energy is a pressing matter of national security. We have an energy security crisis. We need to think anew to devise an energy security strategy that will give future generations of Americans an economy less dependent on oil and fossil fuels.

"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 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 well-being.

Unfortunately, this bill does not think anew and is not adequate to the challenges of this stormy present. For that reason, I cannot vote for it."

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