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Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives For The Nation Act Of 2007--Motion To Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I rise today to praise the progress this body is making toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In 5 short months, we have assembled and advanced a package of energy proposals that will strengthen the foundation of a new, clean energy economy for our Nation.

Senator Bingaman and Senator Domenici have led us to where we are today, as have the chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Commerce Committee. The bill before us today, H.R. 6, is a product of many minds and many good ideas.

The extraordinary progress the Senate has made in the last 5 months responds to a seismic shift in how Americans are thinking about energy and about our world. At no time in our history--at no time in our history--has energy been so clearly a matter of national security, of economic security, and of environmental security. The issue before us is fundamentally about the security of the United States of America.

Think back to 2000. At that time, it seemed that the threat of Islamic radicalism was confined to foreign soil. Few understood the urgency of combating climate change at that time. Gas prices at that time were $1.20 per gallon. That price cloaked the real costs and the real danger of our dependence and our addiction to foreign oil.

Today, this is all different, and fortunately, today, the people of America and this Senate are recognizing it is all different. In every corner of American society, the conventional wisdom about our energy policy has changed. The fact is, our dependence on foreign oil affects the lives of Americans each and every day. It touches our security, our pocketbooks, and our conscience.

Most strikingly, oil has become a major factor in global security. Our dependence--our dependence--our overdependence makes us vulnerable and weakens our standing in the world. Since 2001, China and Russia have partnered to lock up oil in central Asia, rolling us out of that region. Venezuela has wielded its resources to buy off its neighbors and to divide our hemisphere. Iran has used its oil resources to court Russia and China, convincing them to oppose our diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Countries that wish us harm know about our addiction. They know any disruption in supply sends gas prices through the roof and slows our economy. They are happy--they are happy--our enemies are happy to profit from our addiction. Oil money lines the pockets of terrorists, extremists, and unfriendly governments. It funds the Hezbollah rockets and militias in Lebanon today. It reaches bin Laden, it reaches al-Qaida, and it finances the militants in Nigeria who kidnap and terrorize westerners.

The sad truth is that today we are funding both sides of the war on terror. We spent over $100 billion last year to fight the extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, extremists who are funded indirectly through the oil revenues we finance out of this country and around the world. This situation is absolutely crazy.

To make matters worse, our oil dependence is causing economic pain for Americans. With gasoline over $3 a gallon and holding, $50 and $80 visits to the gas stations for family members to fill their cars are straining family budgets and frustrating small business owners. Across my State, the farmers and ranchers whom I fight for every day here are budgeting for the harvest, and they are having to budget for numbers that are astronomical that they never saw before. The question they ask themselves as they go to bed every night is whether they are going to be able to make enough money to pay off their operating line at the end of the harvest season.

Americans want affordable alternatives at the filling station.

So far they have few. We must move forward in providing those alternatives.

The third reason we are on the floor today with this legislation is our bill will help jumpstart a new energy economy. That new energy economy is based on the environmental security threats we see from global warming. Climate change now stands as one of the greatest moral challenges of our time. It is an issue we are obligated to confront.

The desperation and disaster brought by Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and a series of prolonged droughts, floods, and fire storms over the past several years have driven climate change to the center of American consciousness. We cannot afford to leave our children a legacy of an environmental disaster. We need to begin to work on that problem now, and this legislation begins to do that with respect to carbon sequestration.

This is not the beginning of our efforts here. In 2005, this Chamber, with most of the Members who are still here today, worked in a bipartisan fashion to pass the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The bill before us today is a significant step forward toward tackling the national security, economic security, and environmental security implications of our oil addiction. The 2005 Energy Policy Act was a first step in moving us in that direction.

We approached the 2005 Energy Policy Act much as we have this proposal today. It was a work Senators Domenici and Bingaman did--Senator Domenici was chairman and Senator Bingaman as ranking member, and now their roles are reversed. They said we have an energy problem and we can craft a better energy policy, and that received nearly 80 votes in the Senate. It is that same bipartisan approach that they have taken to this legislation. Other committees also contributed to the legislation before us today and have also taken that kind of approach. That is why, at the end of the day, we will succeed in moving forward with energy legislation in the Senate.

The bill in the 109th Congress, the 2005 Energy Policy Act, was perhaps the most important energy legislation passed in 20 or 30 years in this country. During that time, I traveled to all 64 counties in Colorado and spoke to the people of my State about that bill. By and large, they appreciated the balanced approach we took to the 2005 act. The bill kick started a renewable energy economy, made big investments in technologies, took a cut at consumption with smart efficiency measures, and it made sensible additions to our domestic oil and gas supply.

There remains much to be done, and that is why we are here today. We should not forget our bipartisan work of 2 years ago, which planted the seeds for our new energy economy; and today, in the week ahead, and in the following week, we will have an opportunity to build on the success of 2 years ago.

The new energy economy is in fact taking root. I don't think you will find a better example of how quickly Americans can change their approach to energy than in my State of Colorado. We have sparked a renewable energy revolution in Colorado in just 2 years, and the benefits have already touched every corner of my State. Our farmers and ranchers are leading the charge. In Weld County, Logan County, and Yuma County, which are remote and far away from Denver, we are seeing biofuel plants spring to life, creating new markets and new opportunities for our rural communities. So the ``forgotten America,'' in fact, is having new opportunities created for them because of the fact that we are embracing the clean energy revolution. Today, we have three ethanol plants that are already in production, where there were none 2 years ago. We have several others that are under construction and are being planned.

But it is not just biofuels. In the San Luis Valley, where my family has lived, ranched, and farmed for five generations, Xcel Energy just broke ground on the largest solar plant in North America. More and more wind turbines are turning on the plains of southeastern Colorado, powering front range homes, while providing incomes for the ranchers who own the land. Indeed, the current program with respect to the construction of wind energy farms in Colorado will mean that very soon we will be producing the same amount of electricity that is produced from three coal-fired powerplants in Colorado. That is enormous progress in a very short time.

How did we spark that renewable energy revolution in Colorado? The Energy Policy Act of 2005 helped, but it is not the only force of change. The National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden is the crown jewel of our labs, and it is a hub for innovation for our clean energy future. The President of the United States has visited NREL. Many colleagues in this Chamber have visited NREL. We do all we can here to support the work that the researchers are doing there today. We have created the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, which binds the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden with the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and the University of Colorado. The collaboratory is an engine for ideas, technologies, and talent, and making sure those technologies are being deployed out into the private sector.

I have held a renewable energy summit in Colorado in each of the last 2 years. We have tried to connect the business community and those people with the ideas to make sure that deployment occurs. These summits have been a huge success and were attended by the business community, environmental interests, farmers, and ranchers. This last year, we had over a thousand people who attended that summit, which was sponsored by the Governor of Colorado, Governor Ritter, as well as mayors and other leaders throughout the State.

In Colorado last year, 2007, we actually moved forward in enhancing our renewable energy standard, our renewable portfolio standard for our State. The renewable energy revolution underway in Colorado makes me all the more excited about the bill we are considering today. Its provisions are sensible and, by and large, they are bipartisan and should be noncontroversial.

The bill includes 3 key components. First, it dramatically increases production and the use of biofuels. The bill will quintuple the existing renewable fuels standard to 36 billion gallons by 2022, 21 billion of which must be advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. That is more than enough to offset imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Libya combined. I will say that again. The 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, combined with what we produce from corn ethanol, will get us to 36 billion gallons. That amount of production from alternative biofuels is enough to offset our imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Libya combined. I make that point to underscore the importance of the biofuels and alternative fuels title in this legislation.

Second, H.R. 6 also helps us reduce our dependence by making better use of what we have. The transportation sector accounts for a full two-thirds of our oil consumption. It offers the cheapest and best opportunities for saving fuel. The bill helps automakers retool their vehicles by providing items such as loan guarantees for hybrids and advanced diesels. The bill will also make a reasonable increase in CAFE standards. The bill increases and incentivizes the engineering capabilities of our automakers.

Finally, the bill before us also begins to address the environmental consequences of our energy policy. The debate about how to tackle the threat of global warming will have few easy answers. It will be a difficult challenge for us when we get to specifically addressing the issue of global warming later in this Congress. But one thing we can do today is to determine how we can store the carbon we are currently putting into the atmosphere. Carbon sequestration technology is neither new nor complicated. It has been around in the oil fields in America for 50 years. We need to take that technology and refine our techniques for storing it and determine where we can store the carbon that is currently being emitted from powerplants and other sources around our country. This bill will help start us in that direction.

Mr. President, how much time do I have left?

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Six minutes.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I want to say I am very proud of this bill. I know a lot of work has gone into this bill. It is an impressive and thoughtful next step toward reducing our dependence upon foreign oil. In the coming days, I hope we can find ways to strengthen this legislation in some specific ways.

I want to speak very briefly about four amendments that several of my
colleagues and I will be offering in the several days ahead.

The first amendment I intend to offer is the 25x¬25 resolution, which establishes a national goal of producing 25 percent of America's energy from renewable sources, like solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass, by 2025. That resolution is a vision for where we want to get as Americans. It is sponsored by a great group of bipartisan Senators, including Senators Grassley, Hagel, Harkin, Lugar, Obama, and the Presiding Officer, Senator Tester. That legislation was introduced earlier this year as S. Con. Res. 3, and it has received widespread backing. It is endorsed by 22 current and former Governors and many general assemblies from across the country. Nearly 400 organizations, from the Farm Bureau and the Union of Concerned Scientists, to John Deere, to the Natural Resources Defense Council, have embraced 25x¬25 and the vision incorporated in that amendment. I hope we can include that in this legislation.

The second amendment, which I will mention briefly, incorporates provisions from S. 339, the DRIVE Act. That is legislation which Senators Bayh, Lieberman, Brownback, Sessions, and 23 other Senators have been working on for a long time. It has a robust mandatory oil savings plan. The DRIVE Act aims to increase our Nation's energy security by cutting 2.5 million barrels per day from our Nation's oil use by 2016, and 10 million barrels per day from its oil use by 2031. I am hopeful these provisions will also be added to the bill.

Third, Senator Bingaman and I and others will be introducing an amendment to create a national renewable energy standard. Many States, such as Colorado, already have a renewable energy standard and are reaping the benefits. I know there will be debate and discussion about how exactly we move forward with the renewable energy standard. But I believe the time has come for our Nation to adopt a renewable energy standard in the same way many States have done, including my State of Colorado.

For example, a renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020 will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by an estimated 400 million tons per year. That is equal to taking 71 million cars off of America's roads, or planting 104 million acres of trees. While we look at this renewable energy standard, I know we will have a debate about whether we can improve upon what we have done here. I look forward to that debate.

Finally, the Presiding Officer, Senator Tester, from Montana, and I will be introducing an amendment to make better use of America's vast coal resources. Coal is to the United States what oil is to Saudi Arabia. The vast resource of coal from the great States of Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, West Virginia, and throughout our country, is something we need to use. But as we use our coal resources, we need to make sure we are using them in a smart way so it doesn't damage our environment.

The amendment we will introduce will provide loan guarantees to build coal gasification facilities. We also will have standards in there with respect to life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from those facilities to make sure they are 20 percent lower than emissions from petroleum fuels. I appreciate the great work of my colleagues who have worked on that amendment.

How we improve our energy security and reduce our dependence upon foreign oil is the central national security, economic security, and environmental security challenge of the 21st century. It will determine whether we will continue to be entrenched in conflicts over resources in every corner of the world. It will determine whether we will triumph in our fight against oil-funded extremists and terrorists. It will determine whether our economic fortunes will hinge on the price of oil that OPEC sets, or whether the United States will stand proudly and independently as the world's innovator for clean energy technologies; and it will determine whether we will succeed in leaving our children and grandchildren a world wrought with environmental dangers, or whether we can correct our path in time.

I thank my colleagues for their great work on this bill, and I look forward to a productive and thoughtful debate and a successful conclusion to energy legislation in the days and 2 weeks ahead.


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