Issue Position: Energy
Hard-working American consumers, businesses, and farmers demand honest leadership, bold vision, and a comprehensive strategy for our nation's energy future. Senator Maria Cantwell believes we must tap our nation's spirit of innovation, stabilize prices, diversify sources, expand supply, and break our oil addiction. She has supported significant investment in renewable energy alternatives from domestic sources and has developed strong new initiatives to prevent market manipulation and protect consumers, and has worked to preserve the Northwest's system of cost-based power.
Protecting Ratepayers from Enron
From her very first days in office, Maria fought to get justice for Northwest ratepayers impacted by the Western energy crisis and shed light on Enron's attempts to steal millions from consumers. In May 2005, she added three important amendments to the new energy bill, which became law in August 2005. They gave the federal government the power to prevent market manipulation, as well as ban dishonest energy traders and corrupt corporate officials from working in the energy industry. Another provision is helping prevent Enron from further raiding the wallets of Washington state consumers. The amendment reaffirmed the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to decide whether charges related to manipulated power contracts should be enforced. The Commission exercised this authority in June 2006 when it ruled that Snohomish PUD did not have to pay $122 million to Enron for power the bankrupt energy trader never even delivered.
Preserving Cost-Based BPA Power
As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Maria has fought successfully along side her Pacific Northwest colleagues to preserve our region's system of cost-based hydropower, blocking repeated administration efforts to raise the rates of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). This year, she joined with her Northwest colleagues to block the administration's latest attempt, which would have reversed a decades-old BPA policy of using revenue from surplus power sales to lower electricity rates for consumers in the Northwest.
Supporting Clean Alternative Energy and Reducing Fossil Fuel Use
Maria is a steadfast supporter of clean, innovative solutions to our nation's energy needs. She has been a consistent advocate of measures to reduce oil imports, promote greater use of domestically produced biofuels, and increase the availability of flex fuel vehicles. Maria has also created a guide to help citizens jumpstart their own alternative fuel projects or find an ethanol or biodiesel station near where they live. Most recently, Maria introduced the Clean Energy Development for a Growing Economy (Clean EDGE) Act, a comprehensive bill cosponsored by a full quarter of the United State Senate. The Clean EDGE initiative begins with an aggressive goal: to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by almost 6 million barrels a day in 2020or 40 percent of America's projected imports. By clearing the pathways to innovation, investing in our workers and infrastructure, and providing American consumers with broader, more responsible choices, the Clean EDGE initiative also provides the tools to help move America forward, toward real energy security for the 21st Century.
Improving Gas Mileage
Maria has introduced landmark legislation to improve the fuel economy of America's cars and trucks. Her Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act would increase, for the first time in 20 years, the combined average gas mileage of cars, SUVs, and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2017, dramatically reducing America's dependence on foreign oil. Maria's legislation would also for the first time apply fuel economy standards to passenger vehicles weighing between 8,500 and 10,000 poundssuch as Hummers and Large SUVsimprove safety standards in the event of a crash between different sized vehicles, and establish a credit trading program allowing auto manufacturers that cannot economically reach required fuel economy levels to buy credits from automakers that exceeded compliance requirements. Maria has been a consistent advocate of measures to improve vehicle fuel economy standards. Since 2001, Maria has been working to increase CAFE standards, cosponsoring legislation to set higher standards for SUVs and trucks. In 2003 and 2005, Maria tried again to raise CAFE standards and to improve the accuracy of EPA gas mileage tests.
Banning Gas Price Gouging
Maria's Energy Emergency Consumer Protection Act, introduced in September 2005, would outlaw oil price-gouging during national emergencies, impose tougher fines and criminal penalties on violators, and give the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General new powers to protect Americans from artificially inflated gas prices. Cosponsored by over 30 of her colleagues, Maria's legislation received 57 bipartisan votes when she fought for its passage on the Senate floor, but unfortunately parliamentary procedures required 60 votes to pass her measure at the time, rather than the usual majority vote.
Helping Launch a Washington State Biofuels Industry
In October 2005, Maria convened the Biofuels Business Collaborativea group of Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumersto help create a strong Washington biofuels industry. Producing biofuels alternatives with Washington grown crops or woody material can help reduce fuel transportation costs and provide real competition at the gas pump. Maria also helped broker several agreements that will help jumpstart the Washington state biofuels market including a commitment by the Port of Seattle and its tenants to purchase one million gallons of biodiesel annually, working with officials from the Port of Grays Harbor and representatives from Seattle Biodiesel to develop one of the nation's largest biodiesel plants at the Port of Grays Harbor, and securing funding to help Puget Sound ferries to use biodiesel.
Increasing Energy Market Transparency
In April, Maria introduced legislation with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Olympia Snowe and Carl Levin to increase transparency and accountability in energy markets. This will help stop manipulation in electricity oil and gas commodity tradingmuch of which currently takes place beyond the reach of federal regulators. This bipartisan legislation is the culmination of four years of work to close the "Enron loophole" in energy commodity laws, originally exposed at January 2002 Energy Committee hearings on Enron's collapse.