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Public Statements

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004-Conference Report

Location: Washington, DC

Nov. 21, 2003

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President I regret having to vote against this energy package. The country needs a coherent energy policy to help us tackle the challenges that come with economic growth. Our constituents need to know that when they wake up in the morning, the lights will be on and the energy to power our days will be available.

Our economy needs plentiful, affordable, reliable energy as we struggle to climb out of a devastating period of slow growth and job loss. Unfortunately, this bill does more to meet the needs of special interests than the needs of a growing economy.

We need an energy bill that leads to lower prices, a clean environment, and consumer protection. The bill before us today is a missed opportunity to further any of those goals. It has come up short in its effort to lower natural gas prices for Wisconsin consumers. Natural gas prices have been a roller coaster for the people from my State, and we need a large long term supply to come on line. The North Slope of Alaska was the answer, but this bill has done little to make that supply a reality.

Another problem plaguing consumers in Wisconsin is spikes in gas prices brought on by our overdependence on boutique fuels. Most recently, in southeastern Wisconsin, a fire at a refinery resulted in consumers paying $2 a gallon for gasoline because we could not bring in gasoline from other regions without violating the Clean Air Act. The bill before us could have limited the different blends of gasoline in use around the country, so that if one area had a supply disruption, fuel could be imported from another region. I worked with members of the Wisconsin delegation to include language to solve this problem in the future, but that was not retained in the conference Committee negotiations. Wisconsinites will continue to be held hostage to local refineries during supply disruptions.

I supported provisions in the Senate energy bill that would have created a renewable fuels portfolio standard or RPS. The RPS was going to be an aggressive target that would have created a significant market for renewable energy technologies. While the bill does contain tax provisions to encourage the use of renewable energy, the RPS was a new and exciting effort to wean us of our addiction to fossil fuels. The RPS was dropped in conference, even though it had received several strong votes in the Senate. Many States are creating their own RPS, but a national requirement would have set the renewable energy industry on a path to mainstream success. Instead, we are left with small changes at the margins which will not significantly affect our energy production mix.

High electricity prices over the last few years have made it clear that consumers need better protection from unscrupulous companies. Again the Senate bill contained provisions that would protected consumers from the kind of price gouging schemes created by Enron. My colleagues worked hard to make sure the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had the teeth and the oversight capability to protect consumers in a world without the Public Utility Holding Company Act. Again the conference turned their back on the Senate provision and embraced House language that defends industry at the expense of State and Federal regulators.

The Congress has squandered another opportunity to craft a far reaching and progressive energy policy for this country. Instead we have chosen to pander to special interests and create a particularly unsavory piece of legislative sausage. The bill before has been laden with three time the tax breaks the President requested, and more than $100 billion in spending. We can do better than this. We should do better than this, which is why I oppose the bill and support the filibuster. Congress owes it to the American people to come back next year and put together a bill that meets the needs of everyone, consumers and industry alike, instead of playing favorites and leaving the taxpayers with the bill.

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