WARM IN WINTER AND COOL IN SUMMER ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 24, 2008)
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, let me indicate my strong support for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the motion to proceed under which we are currently working. I hope we will have a strong vote. We know regardless of the debate we are having on solutions or causes for how we got here, seniors, families, those we represent are being affected by this every single day.
Making sure that LIHEAP is increased and that we have support for families in paying their heating bills is absolutely critical. I very much appreciate our majority leader making this a top priority and Senator Sanders for his advocacy. I look forward to what I hope will be a strong bipartisan vote in support of improving and strengthening LIHEAP.
I want to speak further today about the reality of what is happening for families, businesses all across America, certainly in my great home State of Michigan. Since President Bush and Vice President Cheney, two oilmen, two people from the oil industry, took office, gas prices have nearly tripled. Oil prices have gone up four times higher than before the current administration came into office. The average family is spending a record 6 percent of their income, and counting, paying for gas to get to work, to get the kids to childcare, to try and maybe take a little vacation up north in beautiful northern Michigan or Rhode Island. I can't leave out beautiful Rhode Island, the State of our Presiding Officer.
But the reality is, families are making incredibly tough choices. At the same time, energy prices certainly are taking a toll on the economy. We are seeing the level of unemployment going up. People are losing their jobs or are underemployed or are working three jobs, trying to get to work, paying more for gas. It is outrageous. I go home every weekend, and it is amazing. It makes you want to scream as you stand at the pump and the price goes $50, $60, $70, $80, to fill up a gas tank. It is unbelievable. Families are trying to figure out what to do about it.
Unemployment rises, and we have now 12 States with unemployment rates over 6 percent. My State has an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, 45 out of 50 States have seen job loss and unemployment numbers going up.
One of the challenges, if we are going to talk about what to do about this, is we need to be talking about how we got here. How did we get here? We have had 8 years and two oilmen leading us in the White House, and it is not, unfortunately, a surprise, based on their agenda, that we have ended up with $4 and higher per gallon of gasoline. That is the shorthand way of talking about what has been happening.
For the folks they represent, for the folks who met with the Vice President to put together his energy policy, what has been happening for them, while families are seeing their wages go down, if they have a job at all, every cost they have going up--what has been happening to them? The total combined net profits of the big five oil companies since this President took office are upwards of $556 billion. That is net profits. ExxonMobil alone has had, since this President took office, $185 billion in profits.
One could say, well, businesses want to be profitable. I want them to be profitable, and I am working hard to make sure our manufacturers who, by the way, pay a lot of these costs and are impacted by gas prices when it comes to what is happening in the economy, I want them to be profitable as well. This is not about whether companies should be profitable. This is about the fact that we have had an energy policy put forward by two oilmen in the White House that has focused on supporting an industry and their backers, their supporters, that has now created a crisis in America, a crisis in the economy.
To add insult to injury, it is one thing if there are profits and they are put back into creating more oil and gas exploration, alternative energy exploration, if this was reinvested to strengthen America, the folks who are helping to subsidize this, taxpayer money. The folks I represent who have lost their jobs, they are subsidizing this right now because of tax policy.
To add insult to injury, are they putting this back into the economy to make us energy independent? No. The oil companies have spent $188 billion in stock buybacks over the last 5 years, instead of investing in increasing supply at home or in supporting a man who has now become very well known to everyone, T. Boone Pickens, an oilman his whole life, who is now investing in alternative energy. Instead of going in that direction because they care about America, the American people, American businesses, American economy--no, that is not what is happening. That is what adds such insult to injury about what is happening to the people of Michigan and around the country. It is the fact that people are taking this and having stock buybacks or adding another corporate jet or putting it into their pockets as opposed to investing in America and the ability for us to have energy independence.
Then, on top of that, with what is being drilled for--and we know we are in a global market. We understand that. We are in a global economy where commodities move around the world. But it is important to know that when our colleagues put forward the oil agenda of drill, drill, drill, let's keep doing what we have always done and hope maybe something will change, maybe we will get out of the hole we are in if we just keep digging--when they talk about that, they are not acknowledging the fact that a record 1.6 million barrels a day from U.S. refineries, 1.6 million barrels a day in refined petroleum products were exported in the first 4 months of this year, up 33 percent.
So we are paying more. We are being told the problem is we are not drilling more, and then 33 percent more of the oil drilled in America leaves America. Why? We are in a global marketplace. It goes to the highest bidder. We understand that. We understand the fact that China is using more, the fact that the weak dollar impacts that and oil speculation, the whole question of energy speculation which, again, I appreciate Senator Reid and all the leadership of my colleagues--Senator Durbin, Senator Dorgan, so many people--who have been focused on this as a piece of the problem, but we are being told: Use the old solution over and over and over, knowing that we don't even know if that oil is going to stay here.
I have supported drilling in the gulf. I have supported efforts to add to our domestic supply. But this is not the way we are going to create energy independence by only focusing on that. According to the Department of Energy, shipments this February topped 1.8 million barrels a day, shipments outside the country, the highest for the first time in any given month.
We are being told that we should do the same old thing, add to it, but do the same old strategy, and somehow we will get a different result. I suggest that the same old strategy, first of all, has achieved great results for friends of the administration, for friends of my colleagues, the Republican leadership that has been fighting for the oil agenda of this country. It has achieved a goal but not a goal for the American people. This is a question of who you are fighting for, whose side you are on.
These folks are doing well. We know whose side the current administration and those who support the administration are on. Unfortunately, it is not the side of the folks in Michigan who are worrying about whether they can buy enough gas to get to work.
We have, in fact, a formula the Presiding Officer is very well aware of: 8 years divided by 2 oilmen in the White House has gotten us this result: $4 and counting.
So what has been the energy plan of the administration that has gotten us to this situation? Well, for one thing, we have seen a free ride for the oil companies. In January 2006, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration was allowing oil and gas companies to forego royalty payments--so they were not having to pay their royalty payments they should be paying--on oil and gas leases in Federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. This decision by the Department of Interior could cost American taxpayers more than $60 billion.
So to go back again to another chart--they are not paying oil and gas leases, which costs American taxpayers up to $60 billion. I wonder how much of these profits came from that decision. I wonder how much.
We all know that the administration and, unfortunately, those who support the administration's policy, Republican colleagues, have joined in supporting an effort to block the elimination of taxpayer subsidies to the oil industry so we can take those precious dollars, hard-earned dollars of people working every single day, money that has been going to subsidize the oil companies--we wanted to move that over to real energy independence, to focus on the priorities of the American people, American families, American businesses that are having to pay for all this. We tried to move over $12.5 billion that would be used for real energy independence, for incentives for solar and wind and, yes, our new hybrid and plug-in vehicles that are coming in the next couple years that, frankly, provide a much quicker opportunity for us to be able to get to energy independence than what we are talking about here in terms of a long-term drilling strategy.
We have an opportunity to take precious taxpayer money and move it over to invest in the future, to invest in the American people and in the future, rather than in the past and the oil companies. We lost that by one vote, not because we did not have enough to pass it, not that we did not have 51 votes, but unfortunately the Bush administration and the Senate Republican leadership blocked it, filibustered it: Let's filibuster. Let's make sure nothing happens to this. So there was a filibuster that then we were not able to overcome because we were missing one vote.
So the solution that has come forward by this administration, the solution that has come over the last 8 years of the leadership in the White House--the two oilmen in the White House--has been simply to have one solution, which is to continue drilling even if, in fact, that oil does not stay in the United States. So between 2001 and 2007, the Bush administration issued leases on over 26 million acres of onshore public lands. There are already 44 million acres, as we know, of onshore Federal lands under lease, but 31 million acres of those are currently not being drilled upon. There are 2,200 producing leases on the Outer Continental Shelf and 6,300 nonproducing leases at this time.
So that has been the strategy. That has been the strategy that has gotten us to this--okaying more and more land and not even using it. And in the first 4 months of this year, when we were drilling for domestic production--because we are in a global economy--33 percent more of that went out into the global marketplace.
Let me say there is a better way. In addition to supporting the energy speculation bill that is in front of us and in addition to supporting efforts, as I have done before, to have a responsible drilling policy in this country, there is a quicker way to get to where we want to go, and it is one that creates jobs, jobs right now.
I am so appreciative of the fact that, through our budget resolution in the Senate, our Democratic majority put jobs as No. 1 and green-collar jobs in support of manufacturing and retooling our auto industry at the top of the list. I am grateful for our leader's support, Senator Reid, and Senator Dorgan, who has been such a leader on these issues, chairing the Energy and Water Subcommittee in Appropriations. I am very grateful for his support. But here is what we could be doing.
Oil exploration and drilling will take 7 to 10 years to bring new supplies to market. Some people say longer. But there are technologies we can bring to market in the next 2 years--in the next 2 years--for advanced technology vehicles. The more we invest in technologies such as advanced battery technologies, the quicker we are going to find relief at the pump. That is the way we are going to do it, not by rewarding the oil companies more but by investing in our own energy independence, with innovation, American ingenuity, hard work that allows us to not only create jobs but create a future for us here in terms of energy independence and lowering costs.
The facts are simple. Advanced vehicles that run with new batteries are much cheaper to drive than conventional automobiles, and we need to be moving to them as quickly as possible. Currently, the average cost to run a vehicle is 16 cents per mile--16 cents per mile--on the roads. But the cost to run a plug-in hybrid car with advanced lithium-ion batteries is only 3 or 4 cents a mile--a 75-percent reduction. Not only does this save energy, but, as I said before, it creates jobs. This technology is right around the corner.
Frankly, there is a huge competition going on in the world today to see who is going to get to that plug-in battery, that lithium-ion battery that is lightweight enough, small enough, with the technologies that will allow it to be mass-produced on the assembly lines so thousands can be produced a day. The prototypes are there. We have probably all driven them. We have prototypes for a variety of different vehicles. The question is not the prototype; the question is being able to get something mass-produced so it is in the realm of price where consumers can afford to buy it and it can be produced in the volumes we need. We are really in a race right now to do that.
I am grateful there is support from our Senate Democratic leadership to invest in advanced battery research, R&D, the next generation, to provide low-interest credit to retool our plants, to keep the jobs here in America, and to provide consumer tax credits for plug-ins and hybrids to make sure the price is affordable. All of those things are in legislation right now. They are before us in the tax package. They are before us in Senator Bingaman's amendment, if he has the opportunity to offer it, as it relates to the Energy bills. They are in our appropriations. They are right now in front of us, and we have the ability to act on this and quickly be able to move us to the next generation of vehicles that go from a cost of 16 cents per mile on the road down to 3 or 4 cents--much faster than what is being talked about in terms of drilling.
Germany has announced the Great Battery Alliance, which will invest over $650 million in advanced lithium-ion batteries for German vehicles. The German automobile companies are receiving the support of the German Government to be able to be the first ones that are able to get to where we need to be in terms of the new battery technology.
South Korea, by 2010, will have spent $700 million on advanced batteries and developing hybrid vehicles.
China has invested over $100 million in battery research and development.
Over the next 5 years, Japan will spend $230 million on advanced battery research. It is spending $278 million a year on hydrogen research for zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles.
We are in a race. We are in a race as it relates to technology. We have the engineers. We have the scientists. We have the skilled workforce here in America to do this. We have not had an administration or a willingness by our Republican colleagues to join with us to be able to partner in the investments that need to be made in the automotive industry of the future. That is just a reality. I believe it was last year when I looked at the President's budget and it was something like $22 million he was suggesting for advanced battery technology research. Unfortunately, they just don't get it about what is going on around us.
If we want to see prices go down and have energy independence and be able to move to the future for our country, frankly, that is the fastest way to do it. I am very proud our Democratic majority understands that.
We know there is no silver bullet on any of this. But I can tell you what I also know: a game show approach to battery technology research is not the answer. Frankly, both the Republican alternative as well as the candidate who we understand will be the Republican nominee for President have put forward the idea of a prize at the end of the line, a prize for whoever can create the new advanced battery technology research.
Well, Mr. President, we do not need a prize. We do not need motivation. We do not need the motivation to get there. We need the capital to get there. We need the investment. We need the partnering. We need the priority of investing in this innovation to get there. The prize is going to be real easy. Whoever gets there first, they are going to get a big enough prize without us in terms of the marketplace.
The question is, How do we invest up front? What is it that Germany knows, Japan knows, South Korea knows, China knows that we do not know about this, when they are all racing to put hundreds of millions of dollars into this technology? It is very unfortunate that the approach that has been taken--primarily in the Republican alternative; not completely but primarily; and certainly by the Republican nominee--is to treat our economy and certainly the industry that I care deeply about somehow as a game show, and I find that really appalling.
As I conclude, as indicated before, there is no silver bullet to stop the outrageous price increases at the pump. We know that. We have to pass our legislation dealing with energy speculation. I hope we will be able to proceed to do that. We all understand that a responsible drilling policy is part of this. We have, frankly, supported that and made those acres available. But we also know--we also know--if we want America to be energy independent, we have to invest in the future.
We have seen this chart before, but I am going to show it again because we have a lifelong oilman now running ads on television who is so concerned about what is happening in our country and this constant policy that has not been working that he has been presenting, through commercials, a message that we should be paying attention to:
I've been an oilman all my life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of. .....
``We can't drill our way out of.''
..... But if we create a new RENEWABLE energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.
There are some folks who are making a lot of money by ignoring this strategy, there is no question about it. There has been an energy strategy in place that has worked for the oil companies. I understand that when somebody comes out of a particular industry, their focus is on that industry. I understand that. But the reality is, we have gone too long--too long--with a strategy: 8 years of a Republican strategy, with two oilmen at the head of this, creating $4-per-gallon gasoline. That is the simple explanation for how we got where we are.
We have to stop digging. We have to stop doing more and more of the same and hoping somehow we are going to get a different result. We need a new strategy: Energy independence, investing in American ingenuity, investing in a strategy for the future, and, most importantly, what we need is to put the American people first. That has not happened for the last 8 years. It is time to make it happen. That is what our energy proposals are all about. That is what we are fighting for, and we are going to continue to fight for that until we make it happen.
The American people have had enough, and I don't blame them. I have had enough too. It is time for a change, and we are going to work very hard to get that change.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator Menendez be the next speaker following the remarks of Senator Snowe.
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