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Free Flow of Information Act of 2007--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - July 30, 2008)



Mr. ALLARD. Mr. President, I had an opportunity to speak on the floor this past week a number of times and speak in committee about the cost of energy, about pain at the pump. I am of the view that we need to act now.

My position on energy has always been that we should not take anything off the table; that is, we need renewable energy, we need to have energy
from whatever source we can derive--oil and gas, nuclear energy. We need to concentrate on our efforts to try to produce more energy. We need more. That is not the entire solution. We also need to consume less. We need to encourage conservation everywhere we can.

That is why I have signed onto bills such as the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008. This bill says we begin to open deep sea exploration, where we go out more than 50 miles from the coast, and that we begin to drill in those areas and share the revenues with the States that are involved. Under our proposal the Governor petitions to allow exploration, and he does that with the concurrence of the State legislature. A portion of funds generated would even go to the Land and Water Conservation Fund in addition to States, with other funds going to the general fund.

Also, in the particular legislation I mentioned, we talk about Western State oil shale exploration. This resource would provide more than three times the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, this oil shale is found in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.

The legislation I have signed onto says we also look at ways of trying to create conservation, such as electric cars and trucks, and focus our attention on better batteries so we can create an electrical supplement to the use of liquid fuel, whether it is a truck or car, and create some efficiencies on the highway. In the case of cars, as much as 60, 70 miles to the gallon with an augmentation from an electrical source. For these efficiencies to happen batteries are a key technological advancement that has to occur, and it has to occur at a price that consumers can afford. In this bill, we put our efforts into coming up with that type of a battery.

In addition, we try to do what we can to strengthen U.S. futures markets. That means increased funding for staff to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and it directs the present working group to study the international regulation of commodity markets. Remember, on commodity markets, it is not just an American market, it is international. We have to be careful how we disrupt the markets as we do that. If we are not careful we can create a real disadvantage to Americans and not really help in the supply of energy.

These are the types of actions that will make a difference in the price of oil and gas because we increase the supply. That is our problem; we don't have enough to meet worldwide demand. Because of high global demand we need to work not only in this country but also in other countries to spread the idea of conservation.

I have to tell you, Mr. President, the suggestion from the majority leader that somehow if we just stand on the floor of the Senate and talk about more rules and regulations on the commodity markets, somehow that is going to bring down the price of gas, I happen to think that just talking doesn't bring about action. But I do happen to believe that action does create a reduction in the price of oil at the gas pump.

I credit most of the recent price reduction to the President because he actually took action, which was to take the moratorium off the Outer Continental Shelf. This took us closer to allowing for exploration for more energy sources out in the deep ocean. Because of that, the markets did respond. I don't believe it was the debate on the Senate floor where we just talked, because the markets looked and said the President took real action to repeal a regulation, making it easier for us to extract energy out of the ground.

That is the kind of action in which this Congress needs to participate. It is action that needs to happen now, not 30 days from now, not a week, not a day. The sooner we act, the better it is because people every day are feeling the impact on their daily lives of high energy costs.

I recently participated in a press conference where we had people who are involved with supportive programs for the poor. They said because of the high cost of food, it is making it difficult for them to meet their goals and objectives and to keep their budgets within what they allocated at the first of the year. They are having all sorts of supply issues when it comes to feeding the poor and the disadvantaged in this country. We heard from all aspects of the various agencies and religious groups that make it part of their mission to provide for the hungry in this country.

We heard from truckdrivers today. I was at a press conference where we heard from truckers. When you think about it, renewable energy obviously works pretty good if you are talking about power lines. What kind of renewable source do they use in trucks? Ethanol, perhaps, might have some uses for trucks, but basically they are locked in with one source of energy right and that is diesel.

The only way we are going to bring down the price of fuels to the truckers who provide medical supplies, who provide food to Americans--they transport all sorts of produce around the country. They haul around all sorts of manufacturing. They deliver our mail. I am trying to think of one commodity that at some point in time does not spend some time on a truck. It is very important that we keep the total prospect. There is not a simple solution. It is not a one-issue solution where we can say: We are just going to focus on renewable energy and the heck with everything else. We need to look at all alternatives. We are having supply problems. We can't take anything off the table. That is what I want to comment on.

I have on the floor with me a Senator from Wyoming, a good friend of mine who is new to the Senate, one of our newest Members, doing a tremendous job for the State of Wyoming. I know that in Wyoming, for example, they have lots of energy. One of the sources of energy they have is coal. The western part of the United States has hard coal, which is very unique. Frequently, it is mixed with soft coal so communities and towns on the east coast can meet their pollution requirements.

In our discussions, there was some talk about the various alternative sources we could look at for clean coal, for example. I was hoping that perhaps maybe my colleague who is on the Senate floor with me can talk a little bit about energy in Wyoming and how their economy is being impacted with the high cost of gas and diesel and what energy potential is in their State.

I yield the floor to my colleague from Wyoming to talk a little bit about Wyoming. We are neighbors. We have very similar environments and very similar natural resources. Senator Barrasso.

Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Colorado. He is absolutely right, Wyoming is a State which has been very blessed--blessed with abundant sources of energy, and certainly coal, natural gas, oil, uranium for our nuclear power, and also wind, a renewable source of energy. So we have lots of different resources with which we have been blessed.

But in terms of coal--and we know half the electricity in the United States comes from coal--what we know is that there is enough coal in Wyoming to power this country for centuries--not decades but centuries. There is that much coal in Wyoming. Coal is available, affordable, reliable, and a secure source of energy for our Nation.

To me, this is about being self-sufficient in terms of our own energy. We are sending so much of the wealth of this great country overseas. Every time we buy another barrel of oil overseas. Whether it is $120, $130, $140 per barrel, that is a transfer of the wealth of our Nation to people who are not necessarily our friends.

Mr. ALLARD. The figure I have seen is more than $700 billion in 1 year's time. That is a whale of a lot of money to be sending overseas, to our enemies potentially.

Mr. BARRASSO. And we have the source of energy here, with the coal, and the technology is incredible. There are ways to use the coal to convert it to electricity and there are other ways to use the coal to convert it to liquids. Aviation fuel. The military uses an incredible amount of fuel. I have amendments I have introduced and am trying to have debated on this floor that deal specifically with converting coal to liquids, to allow us to use that liquid for our aviation.

There is another technology, coal to gas. There is a true visionary in Wyoming. His name is John Wold, 91 years old, and he is here today to visit. His granddaughter works in my office. I have talked to him for years about the technology of coal to gas, and it is ready to go and available in Wyoming. It is being done in other places around the world, but not yet here. So it is incredible in terms of the available resources we have. But it is not only one source of energy. We need it all. We need the coal, we need the natural gas, we need the uranium, we need the oil, and certainly we need to be more efficient, as my colleague from Colorado has talked about. We need to be energy efficient, but we need the renewables. So we need the transmission lines, but we have plenty of wind in Wyoming.

Look at oil shale. The Senator from Colorado is familiar with that, because Colorado, as well as Wyoming, as well as Utah, is blessed with oil shale. Perhaps I could ask my colleague from Colorado to discuss some of the issues related to that.

Mr. ALLARD. I would be delighted to talk about oil shale. First, I want to address the issue where the majority leader tried to imply that Republicans are interested in only one issue, and that is extraction of oil and gas from the ground. Republicans I talk to on this Senate floor, in my party, understand we need to have a balanced approach. We need to go after all sources of energy. The problem is that on the Democratic side, they only want to go after renewable sources.

I helped to found the Renewable Energy Caucus, and so I understand how important renewable energy is to our future. But we need something to bridge us over, and that is where I think the comments of my colleague from Wyoming are so important, when we are talking about converting oil to liquids or to natural gas. It helps create that bridge. We need to create that bridge by having an opportunity to go and explore for oil and gas in the ground.

One source of fuel in the ground is oil shale, and I think it is important that my colleagues here on the floor understand that oil shale is a huge resource in this country. We have oil shale in the State of Wyoming to a lesser amount than we have in Utah and Colorado, but we have lots of oil shale in Colorado. In fact, most of it is in Colorado. There is a fair amount in Utah, and then a smaller amount in Wyoming. We have different types of oil shale in Utah and Wyoming, and the extraction proposal out of those two States is a little different.

We need to move forward with oil shale, and that is why I am working so hard to get the moratorium off of oil shale because Shell Oil Company and other companies have developed a technique where extraction is environmentally friendly. Utah's oil shale is closer to the surface. It is a higher quality shale which contains lots of oil in one small chunk of rock. What they do is they go ahead and grind it up, heat it, and they extract a heavy type of oil out of that product.

In Colorado, what we are talking about in Mesa and Garfield Counties, for example, is a deeper oil shale. It is a good quality oil shale--not quite as good quality as we see in Utah--and we have a new technology that is being developed there that takes the ground and freezes a perimeter around the section of ground and then heat the middle of it. Basically what you have is a refinery in the ground. So what you extract out is basically a jet fuel that contains sulfur and nitrogen. Obviously, the sulfur and nitrogen has to be refined out, but it is a very good, high-quality product. It is a jet fuel. Then the heavy tarry stuff is left in the ground.

There is no disruption of the surface of the ground other than the fact that you run some pipes in the ground, and you need some water. They have taken out water rights in that part of Colorado to make sure they have water. It is the type of water that can be recycled and reused. So there are lots of conservation aspects to this new technology that is being developed for oil shale. That is why I had the support for the provision that was provided for in the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008, removing the moratorium we have on oil shale.

The current law says you can't move forward with the regulatory process on oil shale, so it has stopped it dead in its tracks. In the meantime, up to 2 trillion barrels of oil in the form of oil shale is in the ground, and we think, with today's technology, that between 800 billion and 1 trillion barrels is what can be economically extracted out of the ground and made available to us. That is three times all of the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Oil shale is a huge resource, but we need to remove the moratorium that says we can't even go ahead and layout the rules and regulations. Now, why is that important? Because they tell the oil companies what the rules of the game are going to be, what they can expect the royalties to be, what they can expect the price of leasing the public lands to be, and also what remediation requirements are there for cleaning up the environment. When the President removed the moratorium on going after our natural resources through the floor of the ocean, he sent a significant message that he is willing to provide more supply for oil and gas, and that had a positive impact on the market. We need to continue that sincerity the President showed to the American people by taking some real action here on the floor of the Senate, and we need to do that by removing an additional moratorium on drilling off the coast and we need to relieve or take off the moratorium on oil shale so that resource can be developed.

The technology is not going to be developed until about 3 years from now, so it would be around 2011 or later before it is ready to go. But you need to put in place the rules and regulations first. We need that now. Some of the reasons for objecting that I have heard is people will say: Well, it is going to take 10 years to develop. Maybe so. But 10 years from now, are you going to say now is the time? It will still take 10 years.

My point is that the sooner you put this in place, you can begin to prepare this bridge we need to have for today's energy sources to get us to future energy sources, which are the renewables--the Sun, or photovoltaic cells, wind, geothermal, and hydrogen. That is what we are talking about, and that is what this particular piece of legislation provides for.

Citizens in Colorado are being dramatically impacted by high fuel prices. We talked before about the agricultural sector and the trucking sector. Trucking is more heavily impacted than any other area, because in the West, we are big States and we have lots of land to cover to provide our goods and services. I don't know whether the Senator from Wyoming has anything to say about how his citizens in his State are feeling the impact of high fuel prices, but certainly they are being felt in the State of Colorado, and it wouldn't surprise me if they aren't very similar in the State of Wyoming.

Mr. BARRASSO. The people in Wyoming clearly are affected the same way folks in Colorado are in terms of the large distances they have to drive, whether going to see the doctor, or taking the kids to school, or going to shop for groceries. I think statistically, when they look at how many miles on average people drive a year, Wyoming is No. 1 in terms of the longest distances. So when the price of fuel goes up, the price of gas at the pump, the people of Wyoming feel it the greatest because they are driving that many more miles. Many of them have pickup trucks or utility vehicles, because when you are that far away from home during the winter, you need to have those higher profile, larger vehicles. It is a matter of personal safety. It is what we want our kids to be in as well.

So the inflation is there at the pump, but it is not only that. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal this past week about a woman in Casper, WY, who runs a bakery. It is a great bakery, down on First Street, and sheoes a nice job. But the supplies, the cooking things she buys to put in the bagels--whether it is the canned apples or the sugar--everything is up pricewise because it has to be shipped in to be used. So it is the fuel we use in our own vehicles but it is also the fuel that is being used to ship products.

The people of Wyoming are smart. At all these town meetings I have, they get it. They understand there is going to be a change in the energy we use in this Nation, a change in the different sources of energy. The people in Wyoming know we would be wise to be conserving, and we are, and they know we would be wise to be using the renewables that we have a lot of, but they are also wise in knowing we do need to find more and use less; that it is a matter of supply and demand. And until you can deal with both sides of that equation--not just one side but deal with both sides--people are going to continue to feel the pain not only at the pump but also at the grocery store. So the people of Wyoming get it. They know the importance of the work we are doing here in trying to find solutions that will help America become energy self-sufficient by developing American coal, American oil, American natural gas, American uranium, and American renewable energy sources.

Mr. ALLARD. That is very key. We need to be less dependent on foreign sources of oil, not only for our own economic well-being but also for the security of this country. If we have to rely on our enemies, or possible enemies, to provide us with fuel, that creates all sorts of security problems for this country. So we have to make sure we have plenty of sources for us to meet our military needs throughout the world if we are going to be the Nation's and this world's peacekeepers.

I note that the Senator has a very busy corridor that goes through the southern part of Wyoming, and it is a big trucking corridor. I think nearly every truck going east to west has to go through Wyoming. They like to avoid the high mountains passes in Colorado, so they find it easier driving through Wyoming, and I expect you see quite an impact there in your State.

Mr. BARRASSO. Interstate 80, which runs west to east across the lower part of the State of Wyoming, is a national transportation route where people are taking products from the coastal areas, the ports in California or Oregon, and they come to a pinch point in Utah and then they all get onto I-80, west of the Wyoming border at Evanston, and they come all the way across the State. Fuel prices are high, and the miles are long. People who talk about a 55-mile-an-hour speed limit in this body clearly have not driven across I-80, where a speed limit like that didn't work before when they tried it, and it won't work now.

I served in the State Senate in Wyoming, a great place. On the third floor of the capital building, there is a large mural on the wall which sort of depicts the State of Wyoming. There is a part of the bottom where I-80 is running across it. Even back when this was painted, years ago, if you count the vehicles on the mural, half of them are trucks. Half of them. And I think the proportion now is even greater than half of them being trucks.

Think about all the product that is being moved east and west on I-80, and I am sure you are seeing it in Colorado as well, with people awaiting the delivery of those products across this Nation and paying higher prices for those products because of the fuel it takes to fill the trucks in order for them to deliver the product. So we are seeing that not just at the pump but also in the pockets of consumers.

Mr. ALLARD. I don't see any solution on the Democratic side. They are talking about more taxes on oil and gas production; they are talking about more rules and regulations. I don't see any proposal that says we need to increase the supply, as we do on the Republican proposal, where we want to turn to oil shale, and to the Outer Continental Shelf, and we turn to the futures market to try to put more enforcement there, and we also work on the conservation side with the electric car.

Truckers are small business people, I attended a press conference today with truckers, I was struck by how conscious they were in trying to conserve.

They were maintaining their trucks. They had great safety records. They were making sure the air in their tires was optimal so they could improve the mileage on it. The trucker I heard this morning, he was saying that about a year ago he was spending somewhere around $1,200 to $1,300 to make a trip from Virginia to Texas. There are no high mountain ranges such as we are used to in the West but a relatively flat trip. This year it is up around $2,500, $2,600 to make that same trip. It is getting close to double what he was paying last year. That has to have an impact on the goods and services that are provided in this country.

We need to be looking at real solutions. That is the point of this colloquy. That is the point the Republicans are trying to make. Just standing here debating on the floor of the Senate doesn't make a difference. We need to have an opportunity where Republican Senators can put their ideas forward. These need to be in the form of amendments.

We need to pick our own amendments. The majority leader should not be picking our amendments. It happens he wants to dictate that process. This is the Senate. This is where we should have open and free debate. I think if we had an opportunity to debate these amendments on the floor we could change the direction of this country. I think we could change the type of legislation that is being proposed as a solution.

Deep down I believe most Members of this Senate understand this is a supply-and-demand problem and we need to produce more supply and we also need to encourage more conservation. My hope is we will have an opportunity to make amendments to achieve this. I have made some of those amendments in committee and found I had bipartisan support and had commitments from both Democrats and Republicans that would help support my position on taking the moratorium off oil shale and similar moratoria.

We are simply cutting off supplies to this country and we are becoming more and more dependent on foreign oil. We are sending more than $700 billion overseas to potentially our enemies--countries such as Iran and Venezuela, for example, and many of the Arab countries which are marginal friends. We have to admit, they are there one day and gone the next.

We will need to make sure we have the security we need in this country, both economically and from a military standpoint. That means we need more oil and gas and not less. We need to have more energy from all over the energy spectrum and encourage the American people to conserve.

I thank my friend from Wyoming for his contribution to this colloquy. I think he is doing a great job and Wyoming should be proud of him.

Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, we started talking a little bit about coal. I wish to say it is not just Wyoming and Montana, coal is abundant throughout the United States. Whether it is Pennsylvania--I see our colleague from Pennsylvania is here. Actually, the whole region of Pennsylvania is called the coal region. He made mention of that. But in West Virginia and Illinois, coal is abundant, it is affordable, it is reliable and secure.

I appreciate the efforts my colleague from Colorado is engaged in, in terms of oil shale--another abundant source of energy that is not being utilized. It is American energy that can be used for the betterment and future of our great Nation.

Mr. ALLARD. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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