As Georgia's economy and population grows, so does our dependence on fossilfuels. However, our dependence on fossil fuels represents a national security concern and a challenge to the environment. Furthermore, demand is outstripping supply, causing prices to increase. This makes it harder for
working families to save, farmers to be prosperous, and small businesses to grow. In 1985, 20 percent of America's oil was imported. Today, that number is 60 percent. We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by investing in clean technologies here at home. In the past seven years, the federal government has invested more than $12 billion to research, develop, and promote alternative energy sources.
I believe we should continue to invest in research and new technologies, such as hydrogen. Why hydrogen? It can be produced from a diverse mix of domestic resources, including nuclear and renewable sources; it produces near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases; and it can serve all sectors of the economy -- transportation, power, industrial, and buildings. The President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative is focused on overcoming technical challenges, including lowering the cost of hydrogen, lowering the cost and improving the durability of fuel cells, and improving the storage technology to enable a driving range of more than 300 miles.
In 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act which mandates a fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. I call on the federal government to offer a major incentive to automakers to take this even further and produce a car and truck fleet that achieves a
fuel economy standard of 80 miles per gallon.
In 2005, the United States became the world's leading ethanol producer. Corn ethanol holds a lot of promise, but there are a significant number of challenges, namely the high price of corn. The high price of corn is beginning to affect the price of food. However, the best thing to do is not retreat from our commitment to alternative fuels, but to continue to invest in research and technologies that produce ethanol from other sources, such as wood waste and switchgrass. Our state became a leader in the next
generation of alternative fuels in November of last year when Range Fuels broke ground on the nation's first commercial full-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Georgia.
We should also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by replacing them with alternative energy sources to power our homes and work places. I strongly believe that our country should promote nuclear power. There are 104 operating nuclear reactors in the United States. Nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent of U.S. electricity supply, a figure that could rise if regulations on carbon dioxide emissions are imposed, making the production of nuclear plants, which do not produce greenhouse gas emissions, even more important. Nuclear energy would add needed diversity to Georgia's fuel mix at a time when fuel prices are increasingly significantly and represents the only technology that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, I believe we should continue to invest in technologies and research that harness the power of the sun. Last year, U.S. solar installations grew by 32 percent. Our research and development efforts must continue to identify and overcome market barriers to ensure that the nation benefits from energy security and environmental advantages of the commercialization of solar technologies.