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Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008 - Motion to Proceed - Continued

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


STOP EXCESSIVE ENERGY SPECULATION ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 22, 2008)

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Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, in just short of 2 weeks, the Senate will leave for what is the traditional August recess. There is one thing about which every Member of this Senate today agrees upon, not a single dissenting statement from anybody--the largest problem and biggest issue facing the American people today is the rising cost of energy and specifically the high cost of gasoline. It would be sad and disappointing if this Senate adjourned for a recess in August without having addressed the energy problem in a meaningful, bipartisan, multifaceted way.

In the speech I made on the floor 3 weeks ago, I made the statement that it was time for Republicans and Democrats to put the elephants and the donkeys in the barn. It is time for us to find a way to find common ground, set aside those divided issues, and put on the table those issues which both of us know will help to solve the rapidly increasing price of energy and the long-term problems it portends.

Last Thursday, Senators Bingaman and Domenici brought to the Senate two renowned experts on economics and energy. They testified for over 4 hours in Dirksen room 50. About halfway through that testimony, Senator Conrad of North Dakota posed the following question to both of them. He asked: Gentlemen, if you could, please tell me, where is it America has gone wrong? After pausing for a minute, the economist leaned back and said: For 25 years, the United States has encouraged consumption and discouraged production. We should be encouraging production and discouraging consumption.

The lightbulb went off in my mind. He is exactly right. The policies of this Congress, of our leadership, Republican and Democratic, have looked the other way. We looked the other way when we dodged the bullet of the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. We forgot about the lines, the shortages, the caps. Somehow, we looked out to another day to solve the problem.

That other day has come. I suggest to you there are multiple things we all agree upon, if we will put our partisanship aside and do it. I encourage the majority leader to allow, when we get to cloture, all amendments to be offered and debate to be open and free-flowing and for us to be willing to put all issues on the table.

Let me begin. S. 3268, the bill before us, deals with speculation. I have read through the bill. I want to commend two parts of it.

No. 1, I commend transparency. Most of us in this body are not familiar with speculation or the speculative markets or commodities. We all need a better education and more facts to get it, and the exchanges ought to have absolute transparency so we know what is going on all the time everywhere.

Secondly, I commend the portion on position limits. I learned the other day--and I believe this is an absolutely accurate statement--that all the users of commodities--airlines that buy futures in petroleum, cereal makers who buy futures in grain--all have position limits, meaning there are limits to which they can speculate.

But did you know who does not have a position limit? The investment bankers on Wall Street. The same people who brought us the subprime crisis by securitizing high-risk loans at high yield are the same people who, in some way or another, have no limit on the positions they can take or offer in the commodities market. I think the position limits ought to be equalized across the board, whether you are a user or a speculator or a Wall Street banker.

So those are both good positions. But that is the only thing the bill addresses--speculation--when there are so many other things we need to do. No. 1, on the production side, we do need to start exploring our own resources. It is true, it will take 10 years to get some of those resources to produce. But the very fact we finally make up our mind to do it will make it 1 day shorter each day we have made up our mind. If we put it off today, it is 10 years from tomorrow before we get the production. We ought to go ahead and get it.

Where we have significant differences--such as ANWR; we can debate that separately--but there are other issues where there should be no debate, either in the OCS or extracting the shale oil in Colorado, North Dakota, and Montana. Conservation, encouraging a savings--we ought to be working to do everything we can to encourage Americans to conserve.

Quite frankly, Americans have already gotten that message. For all the rapid transit, mass transit in my city of Atlanta, the buses are full, with standing room only. So is the subway. Ridership is way up. The traffic is much better because people are starting to find economical ways to travel. We ought to incentivize more and more of that.

We ought to incentivize conservation wherever we can. We also ought to look at those things such as nuclear energy. I know the Presiding Officer today has shared with me the common ground he and I have on a safe, reliable way to produce energy in nuclear. It does not pollute. It does not contribute carbon. It is proven to be reliable around the world.

Mr. President, 19 percent of our energy today comes from nuclear. In 20 years we could take it to 50 percent, and we could reduce our carbon footprint, while geopolitically we could have a tremendously positive effect on our country. Renewable sources of energy should be incentivized across the board, as biofuels should be the same way. We should not have selective encouragement in tax policy. We should have open encouragement on all research and development, whether it is synthetic, renewables, or biofuels.

In essence, I have simply come to the floor to say this: We all know precisely what the problem is. We all know there is not one answer. It is not just speculation. It is not just exploration. It is not just conservation. It is not just wind. It is not just solar. It is not just hybrid vehicles. It is not just plug-in cars. It is all of those things.

But the solution lies in the heart of a Senate that is willing to put its partisanship aside, address the No. 1 issue facing the people of the United States of America, and find a willingness and a heart to find common ground. Our country faces some significant challenges economically today, and whatever our differences may be politically, we should be united in finding common ground to solve those problems, and the biggest is the price of energy to the American family. It is impacting every single thing they do.

So I come to the floor today to welcome the ability to debate this legislation, to want to talk about dealing with speculation--but not speculation alone. We should not make ourselves feel good by passing one bill that deals with one issue and only one component part and go home and say we did something. We should take pride in taking all the facets we can agree on--whatever they might be--incorporating them in a bill, and leave here in August knowing we did something for the people who have sent us up here to represent them, the people of the United States of America.

I yield back the remainder of my time.

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