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American Energy Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I thank my colleagues on the Republican side and our leadership for giving me the opportunity to be on the floor tonight to talk to all of our colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, about one of the most pressing issues facing this country in a long, long time. And of course the gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) just spent her 5-minute discussion talking about the very same thing. But we are blessed to have an hour worth of time tonight, as we have done on several nights for the last I would say 3 or 4 weeks talking about this one huge problem, Mr. Speaker.

And I have a number of my colleagues who have joined me tonight to help in this discussion of this energy crisis which is so important that the Nation is now facing. We have a Member who I will yield to subsequently who wants to talk about something very unique, a new bill, something that he has thought of that I think is very, very interesting, intriguing, and I want my colleagues to hear about that.

But let me start the hour, Mr. Speaker, by giving our colleagues a little quiz. This is not a pop quiz. Well, maybe in a way it is, but it is not a difficult pop quiz. In fact, it is the easiest type question, the kind I always enjoyed when in school, it is multiple choice. It is a multiple-choice question. So I want to ask the cameras to sort of hone in on this first slide that I have to my left. This is the question. It is simple. It is straightforward.

How do we bring down the price of oil?

Now I have listed about six possible answers. I could have listed eight or ten. Let's start with A, open up oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf.

Now that oil and natural gas has been closed to us, has been locked up since the mid-seventies when a moratorium was placed. Thank goodness President Bush just recently, in the last 2 weeks, lifted the executive order and now Congress certainly could pass a law and allow us to do that.

So, A, I am sure for many of our colleagues in this body on both sides of the aisle, A, would be their choice as the best answer.

The second answer, B, build new oil refineries. Well, you mean we haven't? No. No, my colleagues, we have not built a new oil refinery in this country probably in 25 years. We have expanded a bit along the gulf coast where most of the refineries currently exist. And, of course, they are right in hurricane alley, and we know what happened during Hurricane Katrina when a lot of refineries were shut down and we had a real crisis because of that.

So darn right, B would be a good answer, build new oil refineries.

And C, commercially develop renewable energy resources. What do we mean by renewable energy resources? Well, I think the main two that come right to mind are wind and solar. Wind and solar. Wind and sun.

There are some parts of the energy where there is a lot of energy produced by wind and sun. The North Sea, the northern part of Germany, Hamburg; in the Netherlands. I have been to both of those countries and seen these huge turbines, wind farms, and some are out in the ocean. You can't see them, they are a long way from shore, but this constant wind source in the North Sea is a good source of renewable energy.

Solar panels, I would say, work real good in the equator in the temperate zones, but they may not work so well in certain parts of our country. But without question, C is a good response to how do we bring down the price of oil, commercially develop renewable energy resources. We are doing that. In fact, we have tax credits to incentivize that. I have recently supported a bill by the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Bartlett), to renew those tax credits for renewable to stimulate that industry. These tax credits expire, I think, in about a month, so it is very important that we do renew that.

Right now only 1 to 2 percent of the energy, the electricity in this country is generated from these renewable sources. It ought to be 6 to 8, maybe 10 percent; and hopefully eventually it will. So C is a pretty darn good answer.

The fourth choice, D, commission new nuclear power plants. Well, you know, some of our colleagues may say you mean we haven't? We don't? We have got over 100 nuclear power plants in this country, some in the southeast. The gentleman from Tennessee is with us tonight, and there are some in Tennessee. And there certainly are some in my home State of Georgia. I worked at a nuclear power plant in South Carolina when I was a co-op student at Georgia Tech. But we have not licensed, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not licensed a nuclear plant in about 30 years.

The Three Mile Island scare, there was no loss of life, maybe that had something to do with it. But nuclear power today is safe. It is efficient. It is clean; and yes, it is expensive. And maybe that is part of the reason why we haven't gone nuclear in a more meaningful way. Right now I think probably 12 percent of our power in this country is generated by nuclear power.

But when you are paying $140 a barrel for oil, petroleum products, all of a sudden nuclear power would be a bargain. And we have a couple of power plants in the State of Georgia. Plant Vogtle has two and is asking to bring online two more. We need to streamline that.

There are countries, France in particular, 85 percent of their electric power, their electricity, is generated by nuclear power. In fact, they even have to sell some of that to their neighbor Germany who doesn't allow nuclear power.

The Scandinavian countries, Sweden, they have nuclear power generation almost exclusively, and they have a good way of getting rid of the nuclear waste, of burying it deep in bedrock. We have the same capability right here in the United States out in Nevada where we have spent billions of dollars developing Yucca Mountain, but yet politicians, very powerful politicians from the State of Nevada, I won't mention names, but they are blocking that.

So without question, D, commission new nuclear power plants, would be a darn good answer.

The next choice is E, promote conservation.

Now look, who could disagree with that answer? There are 85 million barrels of oil, petroleum, produced in this world every day; 85 million barrels. The United States of America utilizes 22 million barrels a day. We are about 5 percent of the world's population, and we are utilizing about 25 percent of the world production of crude oil. So there is something wrong with that math, no question about it. That calculus just doesn't add up. So we certainly need to conserve. We need to ride in high-occupancy vehicle lanes on our interstates. We need to probably, slowly but surely, go to smaller automobiles that are more fuel efficient.

We need to go to these fluorescent-type light bulbs. I mean there are so many things that we can do. Yes, we need to tighten our belt; so that answer is not a bad answer.

And I said that we could have put some other things in there. ``Sue OPEC,'' I don't think that would be a very good answer, but I have heard people say that. ``Sue OPEC and Venezuela'' I have heard. And the Democratic majority, Mr. Speaker, has legislation and they want to say, well, we need to stop all the speculating and the hedging and unless you are actually taking possession of the oil, that contract, and you really are buying it for the oil company or for the airlines or for the Air Force, you shouldn't play in that market. I don't know if that's a problem. It may be a little small part of the problem. I could have added that as a possible answer.

But the last choice is choice F, and that choice is ``all of the above.'' And I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I think F is the right answer. And I believe that the 5,000 or so people that were chatting with me last night from Harris, Polk, and Carroll Counties of the 11th Congressional District in Georgia told me very clearly that that's the choice that they would take. And I believe that a fifth grade geography class would make the choice, that they would say just what the Republican minority has been saying to our brothers and sisters across the aisle for the last month or 6 weeks, that we need to do all of these things. There is not one silver bullet. You can't solve this problem with the snap of your fingers and sue Big Oil and windfall profit taxes and releasing a few million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. You might affect the price for a few days, but it would go right back up. No, we need to look at this not only in the short term but in the long term. If we had done this back in the 1970s, we wouldn't be in this crisis that we are in today. But we went back to sleep is what we did. Shame on us for that, and doubly shame on us if we do it today.

People are suffering, Mr. Speaker. People are suffering severely. And we are about to leave this body. Ms. Foxx was talking about 9 days. Well, really we're talking about 4 or 5 legislative days and we are out of here for recess or vacation or whatever you want to call it. Every August, that's traditional. But in a situation like this, I tell you what, I would be proud to sit right here on this floor Friday and Saturday and Sunday waiting for this body to act and not adjourn until we get something done. Because if we are away from here for a month and nothing is done, when we come back, the kids are back in school, and you know how they're going to get there? They're going to walk or they're going to be riding their bicycles out on these busy highways because those yellow buses are not going to be on the road because these school systems are not going to be able to afford the diesel fuel to put in those buses.

So this is serious stuff, Mr. Speaker, and I think my colleagues understand that. I think my colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand it. And what they don't understand and what my constituents don't understand is why the leadership, the people that bring the bills to the floor, those that have the control that say which bills are voted on and when, why they can't understand it.

Well, in this hour we will get into all of that, but I have got a couple of my colleagues on the floor with me, and I want to give them an opportunity because they have got some very interesting things to say. But I have got one more chart, Mr. Speaker, that I want to show before I yield to my colleagues.

This chart, and of course I have already given the answer away, the answer F, ``all of the above.'' And, of course, it shows this big huge oil rig way out, 150 miles in the Gulf of Mexico. We ought to be doing that off the East Coast and off the West Coast, of course with the States' consent and with their ability to share in the revenue. And the Federal part of that revenue could be used to continue to push and promote alternative energy sources like that wind and solar we were talking about earlier, coal liquefaction, mining shale, doing a lot of things that will make us energy independent and will increase our domestic production.

And, of course, there are some other pictures on this slide as I refer back to it. These are some of the wind farms. That's exactly what they look like in the Netherlands and in other places that I've seen them. This, of course, is a nuclear power plant.

The drilling in ANWR, I put that there just to point out what a small area it is, Mr. Speaker. The light green on the darker green is 2,000 acres in an area of 19 million, and 2,000 acres in an area of 19 million is like a postage stamp on a football field. And it's Coastal Plain, tundra, frozen most of the year. It's 70 miles from the Alaskan pipeline. It's 10 billion barrels of oil, and if you're pumping it, it's probably 1.5 million barrels a day. That increases our domestic production 15 to 20 percent, just that one site. So, obviously, we need to do all of these things if we are going to solve the problem.

And before I go any further, though, as I said at the outset, Mr. Speaker, one of our Members had a very interesting thought. He wants to spend a little time discussing it and making sure our colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand it. He's a long-term Member. He knows about oil. He knows about energy. He's a great Texan. He is the ranking member of the Science Committee. I am proud at this time to yield to my good friend and colleague from Texas, the Honorable Ralph Hall.


Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Texas. He did not disappoint. I think that his explanation was exactly what I anticipated.

And I want to, before I yield to my good friend and colleague from Tennessee, I wanted to point out, reference back to Representative Hall's poster in regard to the map. And he pointed out, of course, that this whole area, the refuge area, 9 million acres, refuge area, no development allowed. That is this orange area.

And then also, in the yellow area, wilderness area, another 8 million acres, no development allowed.

And then this Coastal Plain area on the very top, the north slope, that area was reserved by our own President Jimmy Carter, from my State of Georgia, who fully intended that, eventually, that oil exploration could be allowed in that area that Representative Hall was talking about, and not the whole area, but this small, I mean, it is about 1.5 million acres and we are talking about 2,000 acres. So clearly that was the intent, as he pointed out, back in 1980.

So I love this slide and I love his idea. I think it is intriguing.

And with that I want to yield now to my good friend from Chattanooga, the Honorable Zach Wamp.


Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Tennessee. He is always very, very thoughtful, and his presentation is so clear. Hopefully, all of my colleagues can understand the message that we are presenting tonight. That is, really, as we go back, thinking about the initial little quiz, the little pop quiz, multiple choice, it's all of the above. It's all of the above. That is what Representative Zach Wamp from Chattanooga, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee and who understands this issue, is explaining to our colleagues and to anybody else who might be listening tonight. This is important stuff, and it is critical. It is critical that we do something about it.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand--and this is awfully small, but maybe the camera can focus in on it. This just shows you a number of bills that have been introduced by the Republican minority starting the week of June the 9th:

H.R. 3089, the No More Excuses Energy Act of 2007: No action on that bill. We have a discharge petition. Almost every Republican has signed that discharge petition, but we need 218 of our colleagues. That means some of our Democrat colleagues need to sign these bills as well.

Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, thank you. Of course.

The next bill, H.R. 2279, was introduced the week of June the 16th. This bill, the title of it, is Expand American Refining Capacity on Closed Military Installations. Mr. Speaker, as you know, there has been no action on that bill. Right over here to my right, at the desk, is a discharge petition. We've got Republican votes. We're awfully close, Mr. Speaker. We need 218, but so far, no action.

Basically, this bill just says in the BRAC process, where we have a number of closed military installations, we have that government land, and if that community wants to have a refinery placed there, then we can do it. It's a very simple bill. As I said at the outset, we desperately need to expand existing refineries and bring more online.

Now, in the week of June the 23rd, H.R. 5656: Repeal the Ban on Acquiring Alternative Fuels. It reduces the price of gasoline by allowing the Federal Government to procure advanced alternative fuels derived from diverse sources like oil shale, tar sands and coal-to-liquid technology.

I want to spend an extra amount of time, my colleagues and Mr. Speaker, discussing that particular bill because that was a provision--section 526, I believe--in the Democrats' energy bill of 2007. The energy bill, I think, is called the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Now, this section 526 basically says that no agency of the Federal Government can enter into a contract to purchase any nontraditional fuel if the result of processing that fuel or of burning that fuel is an increase of one scintilla--a scintilla, my colleagues, is a very small amount, indeed, a nanogram, an infinitesimal increase--in the carbon dioxide footprint.

So that means that domestic sources that are not traditional bubble-up petroleum that are easily obtained cannot be utilized, and that is a tragedy. That is a tragedy for this country when the Department of Defense, one agency of the Federal Government, is spending in the year 2008 an extra $9 billion on fuel. Now, this is not the total amount they're spending. This is just the delta because of $145 a barrel on petroleum and what it costs eventually to produce jet fuel.

Yet we have in this country, in the Rocky Mountain States, in three or four States out in the Rocky Mountain area, a product called shale. It's a rock, and it's embedded with petroleum, and it can be mined on the surface. People get concerned, I guess, sometimes about the environmental effects of mining, but if we didn't mine in this world, there would be no highways; there would be no aggregate to produce concrete and asphalt. Indeed, there would be no diamonds, no copper.

Mining shale has the potential in this country of producing 1.5 trillion barrels of petroleum, 1.5 trillion barrels of petroleum, Mr. Speaker. Yes, it's a little more difficult to get it, and possibly, it does yield a scintilla increase in the carbon dioxide footprint, but when we're in a crisis like we are in today in this country and when people are suffering, I'll guarantee you the citizens of the 11th District of Georgia--of northwest Georgia in the nine counties that I represent--and probably my 434 colleagues in this body on both sides of the aisle and their constituents will tell you the same thing:

We're worried about the carbon footprint; we want a clean environment, and we know that that's important to our future, and we're going to work toward that.

Guess what the number one priority is today. That is bringing down the price of gasoline because we can't eat and because we can't get our kids to school. We can't get to work. This is something that you would think, Mr. Speaker, the leadership of this body could clearly see when everybody else in this country can see it.

I could give you some statistics about polling. We all look at polls particularly in this big election year. According to a CNN poll, 73 percent of Americans favor more exploration of deep ocean energy resources far off of American shores. In a Reuters-Zogby poll just this past June, 75 percent of Americans support drilling for oil off the shores of the United States while 59 percent support drilling in ANWR.

We have heard this. This is an undeniable fact. I mean I know people can have their own opinions, but they cannot have their own facts. The fact is we're the only developed country in the world that has not taken advantage of exploring for oil and natural gas off of our Continental Shelf. It makes no sense. In fact, right now, Cuba and China are talking about exploring for oil and natural gas off of the coast of Cuba, 45 miles from our coast, and it's perfectly legal; they can do that. Yet we're sitting on our hands. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Well, I've got a number of other bills, Mr. Speaker, that are sitting over there with those discharge petitions that are just waiting for a few Democratic signatures. I wonder of the conservative members, particularly of the Democratic Conference and of the Blue Dogs, where their signatures are. It's amazing to me that they don't go to their leadership and say, ``You know, you're killing us. We're on the verge of committing political suicide. We've got to do something.''

If I cared only about the politics of it, I probably wouldn't say a word. I would let them continue this folly of their leadership and hope that the political consequences in November would be advantageous to my Republican Party, and we'd regain the majority, and we'd elect President McCain. I hope that happens.

What's more important right now is that we come together in a bipartisan way and that we do the right thing for the American people and then let the politics take care of themselves and let the chips fall where they may, and they will.

As we get toward the close of the hour, in the remaining few minutes, I want to talk about a bill that was introduced just yesterday by the leader of my party, by the minority leader, John Boehner, the gentleman from Ohio. What Mr. Boehner did is he took all of these bills that our colleagues have introduced over the last 6 or 8 weeks, and he put them together into one bill, the American Energy Act.

We had a press conference today on the West steps of the Capitol, and Chairman Boehner, Leader Boehner, and our leadership and a number of Members who actually went up to--Mr. Hall said earlier he had not seen the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and wondered how many Members had. Just this past weekend, Leader Boehner and 10 freshman members of the Republican Conference went, and with their very own eyes, they saw this area.

They also went out to Golden, Colorado, to see where all the research that's being done on renewable fuel and coal-to-liquid. We have something like 1.5 trillion tons of coal in this country, and we use a lot of it, a lot of it to fire our electricity plants. But we could convert so much of that excess coal to petroleum, coal liquefaction, and we could do it in a clean and environmentally friendly way.

So Leader Boehner introduced the American Energy Act, and as I said earlier, remember the multiple choice question, an all-of-the-above approach to energy independence: increase the supply American made energy in environmentally friendly and sound ways; promote alternative and renewable energy technology; improve energy conservation and efficiency. That's the approach that Leader Boehner and the Republican minority is asking our colleagues, Mr. Speaker, to get on board with us for the American people.

And under the bullet point of increasing the supply of American-made energy--we talked about it tonight--open the Outer Continental Shelf, provide an additional 3 million barrels of oil per day, as well as 76 trillion--yes, that's with a T--76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an additional 1.5 million barrels a day; and reduce bureaucratic red tape to construct new oil refineries; and increase the supply of gas at the pump, increase the supply of American-made energy; promote alternative and renewable energy technologies.

As I said, repeal that idiotic section 526 prohibition on government purchases of alternative energy and promote coal-to-liquid technology, shale mining, tar sand production. A lot of the oil that we get from Canada already comes from tar sand, but yet we can't get it right here in the United States of America. It's insanity.

Establish a renewable energy trust fund using the revenues generated by exploration in the OCS and ANWR. What Mr. Hall and Representative Wamp were both talking about is when these States share in the revenue, if they allow this drilling off of their coast, 25, 50, 100 miles out to sea, then the Federal Government also shares in royalties. That money could be spent on research and development for alternative fuels.

Permanently extend tax credits for alternative energy production: wind, solar, hydrogen, biomass. We talked about that earlier.

And eliminate, of course, barriers to the expansion of nuclear power production, which we also discussed.

And then the final chart, improve energy conservation and efficiency. There are a number of things on this chart. I could talk about them real quickly: provide tax incentives for businesses and families that purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles; provide a monetary prize for being the first to develop an economically feasible superfuel-efficient vehicle--John McCain is for that--provide tax incentives for businesses and homeowners who improve their energy efficiency.

So, in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the opportunity, as I say to be here tonight, to talk about these issues, has been a privilege. It indeed has been a privilege, and I want to say to my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, that we Republicans care about the environment. We care about conservation. We want to reduce greenhouse gases for sure. Some of us believe that there's scientific evidence there that suggests that global warming is a real thing and it's caused by too much greenhouse gas production. But we can take care of that problem without breaking this country, if we do it in the right way.

Right now, first and foremost, it is time to lower the price of gasoline at the pump. We can do it by drilling here, drilling now, and saving money for the American people. We're sent here to represent them. We're not doing a very good job of it. No wonder our approval rating is 9 percent. That's shameful.

Let's stay here through the August recess. You know, if it's a week, if it's two weeks, whatever, let's get this job done for the American people.

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