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New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act and the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC




Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to speak against amendment No. 4429, which has been offered by my good friend, Senator Alexander from Tennessee. Senator Alexander's amendment would slash the wind tax credit in half and would curtail the wind energy development for the State of Colorado and for the Nation.

All across America, what we see today is great enthusiasm for the possibility of renewable energy. It is driven, in my view, in a very different way, with a robust look at renewable energy as a way forward. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon coined the term ``energy independence'' after OPEC was formed. Then Jimmy Carter talked to the Nation about the importance of energy independence that we needed to embrace with the moral imperative of a war. Yet through the eighties, through the nineties, through the beginning of this century, we did not, frankly, live up to their vision or to that promise of energy independence. In fact, we went the other way. And in going the other way, what has happened is we have compromised our national security with our addiction to oil that we import from other countries to where in March of 2007 we imported 67 percent of our oil from foreign countries.

We compromise our environmental security as we see what is happening around our planet with the danger of global warming and the consequences it will bring to this planet and to this generation and to generations to come. And we have lost our way forward in terms of creating economic opportunities in America because what has happened is the technology we developed in America, such as the technology from the National Renewable Lab in Golden, CO, has, in fact, been taken by other countries--Spain, Germany, and other countries--and they have developed a very strong energy renewable economy.

When we talk about renewable energy, I agree very much with my colleagues on both the Democratic and Republican sides who have said we need to embrace the renewable energy future of America with an ethic that is a sustainable ethic, with the sense that we are here to do everything we possibly can, and we cannot do this by fits and starts. When we look at wind energy, it seems to me we need to come together to support the future of wind energy in America.

In my State of Colorado, we are seeing a virtual revolution occurring in terms of what is happening with wind energy. In 2004, there was hardly any wind generation taking place in my State of Colorado. I remember going across the eastern plains during my campaign for the Senate and then following that time, my visit to all 64 counties in the State and talking about how renewable energy would open a whole new chapter in rural America, would help us in so many ways to address the fundamental issues of our time.

Since 2004, my State of Colorado has moved to the point where we are about to produce 1,000 megawatts of electrical power a year in the State of Colorado--1,000 megawatts of electrical power--by harnessing the power of the wind. It would take much longer than 3 years to permit a coal-fired powerplant, and 1,000 megawatts represent the energy that would be generated from three coal-fired powerplants.

I don't have anything against coal, as my friend from Pennsylvania knows. We need to have coal some way as part of our portfolio of energies as we move forward, but we need to embrace the renewable energies we know are now on the market and make these initiatives of renewable energy sustainable over a long period of time.

Many projects are depending on our extension of the production tax credit and the investment tax credit. These tax credits are very important. I will be supporting Senator Cantwell's and Senator Ensign's amendment later on in the vote we will be having.

A recent study by Navigant Consulting indicates that failing to extend the investment tax credit could result in the withdrawal of nearly $19 billion in capital investment in solar and wind. That would result in a loss of 116,000 jobs in 2009, including 10,600 jobs in the State of Colorado.

Over the last several weeks, the last 2 months on the floor of the Senate, we have talked about the economic situation in which we find ourselves. We said what we have to do is stimulate the economy and do some things that make sure the economy doesn't go further in the ditch. There are some who say we are already in the ditch. Alan Greenspan said yesterday he thought we were already in a recession. We need to do what we can to make sure that ditch is not too deep so we cannot find our way out.

One of those ways is making sure we are stimulating the economy in ways that work. When we talk about production tax credits and investment tax credits, that essentially will make sure we have these 116,000 jobs created in America. It is something we should very much support.

Congress has looked at the PTC and the ITC in fits and starts. It was first created to expire at the end of 1999, again in 2001, and again in 2003. We need to stop those fits and starts, and we need to be more persistent than consistent with respect to these investments.

Currently, the wind production tax credit has a value of 2 cents per kilowatt hour. The credit is scheduled to expire in 2008. Senator Alexander's amendment would cut the credit for wind to just 1 cent per kilowatt hour. That, in my view, is headed in the wrong direction. Senator Alexander argues that the wind energy receives special treatment and argues fossil energy has received some credit but that we should back down on the credits we are giving to wind energy.

What this chart will show is that what we are doing in terms of tax incentives, as well as in research and development expenditures out of the Federal Government, is not at all skewed toward renewable energies. In fact, it is skewed to fossil fuels. You will see that in tax expenditures, in the year 2007 in billions of dollars, fossil fuel received $13.7 billion of the expenditures that we were making through the incentives we are creating for oil, gas, coal, and other fossil fuels.

But we were putting $13.7 billion into fossil fuels to help us with our energy independence, where we were only putting $2.8 billion into renewables. That is a stark contrast as to where we should be going if we are to get to energy independence for national security and environmental reasons.

When you look at research and development, these are the figures from the Department of Energy out of a General Accounting study which was requested by Senator Alexander in 2007. We see that, in billions of dollars, the Department of Energy spent only $1.4 billion on renewables, but at the same time the Department of Energy spent $3.1 billion, three times as much, on fossil fuels, and $6.2 billion on nuclear.

So when we talk about harnessing the power of the wind, the power of the Sun, the power of biofuels as we grow our way to energy independence, in my view, we need to have some more balance. We need to put more into the renewable energy future of our country.

We have, as a Nation, starting over a century ago, made major investments in helping the fossil fuels industry. What this chart will show is, beginning in 1916, we created this laundry list of tax incentives for exploration of oil and gas and for the production of oil and gas and coal. Also, beginning in 1957, we made major incentives for nuclear. Yet we see the very few incentives we have instituted with respect to wind, which did not start until 1992. So this chart reflects there is a lot of catching up to do if we are to do everything we can as a Nation to harness the energy of the wind.

I am hopeful, therefore, my colleagues will vote no on the Alexander amendment because the wind energy future of our Nation is very dependent on our continuing to sustain a policy over a longer period of time so we get the wind energy industry up and running in America. It is also, in my view, important we support the amendment of Senators Cantwell and Ensign, with respect to energy tax credits, because we need to make sure those do not expire, and right now they are on the verge of expiring.

I would hope, as we move forward in dealing with tax incentives and other issues in the Congress, we will be able to find a way to extend them beyond the end of 2008.

I urge my colleagues to vote no on the Alexander amendment, and I urge my colleagues to vote yes on the Cantwell-Ensign amendment.

I yield the floor.

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