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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PRYOR. Madam President, I thank the Chair for the recognition. I wish to talk about something that is on everyone's mind. When I was in Arkansas last week for the recess, I did four or five townhall meetings and pretty much everywhere I went, this was the topic of discussion; that is, gas prices in our State.

I know it hurts every American when gas prices go up because gasoline prices and diesel prices have a way of working their way through the entire economy and causing economic difficulties for this country. One of the things people pointed out to me is this roller coaster effect we have seen on gas prices over the last year or so. One thing my friends in Arkansas noticed is that the price there has gone up about 30 cents a gallon just in the last couple months. So it has been a very dramatic increase and it is something people are very concerned about.

I wish to make three points about this. One is that I think the Congress--House and Senate--as well as the White House should look at this problem of speculation. When we look at the numbers, some are saying a fairly large percentage of the costs of a gallon of gas--some people say 20 cents a gallon and some people say 40 cents a gallon--actually goes to the speculators. So what that means is a lot of these guys have no intention of ever taking the product and doing anything with it, other than just trading it, to try to profiteer in a volatile market. That is a big concern.

We actually passed something 2 or 3 years ago to get the CFTC to issue some regulations on how to handle this, and now those apparently have been challenged in court. Of course, the people challenging this are the people who are benefiting from the speculation. So I think we need to find that balance.

When we have a market, there are going to be speculators in the market and they are going to get out there and try to make some money in the marketplace. That is the nature of the business. Sometimes they win; sometimes they lose. That is legitimate. But I think there are people and companies, some invest billions and billions of dollars, but they are trying to profiteer off the volatile oil situation. So we need to focus on speculation.

We also need to focus on the supply of oil in this country. The good news is we are seeing more and more acreage being drilled and permitted to be drilled in this country. After the terrible gulf spill a couple years ago, those permits are starting to be issued again down in the Gulf of Mexico, as I understand it. Also, I am a supporter of the Keystone Pipeline as well. We need to continue to develop our domestic supply, and even our near domestic supply in Canada, of oil. We also need to have diversity in our energy portfolio. There needs to be alternatives to gasoline and diesel. We need to find different ways to run our vehicles, whether it is natural gas or whatever it may be. It could be electricity. It could be lots of different products. We need to continue to innovate in this country and try to do great things.

That brings me to my third point, which is the real reason why I am on the floor. Certainly, it touches on gas prices, and that is very important. We don't want to see gas prices slow down our economic recovery we are undergoing right now.

We also need a more comprehensive and smarter national energy policy. I think an important first step toward that is for us to evaluate all the energy programs we happen to have on the books already--what the Department of Energy is doing, what other various departments are doing. Someone needs to be looking at all the tax credits and tax incentives when it comes to energy. We need a comprehensive analysis of where we are as a nation: what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are.

What I am proposing is a bill, the Quadrennial Energy Review. It is a bill we have introduced, and I am fortunate enough to have Senator Bingaman, the chairman of the Energy Committee, as well as Senator Murkowski, the ranking member

of the Energy Committee, as cosponsors. We would love to have other Senators look at this, maybe relatively soon, because we would like to start moving this through the process, if at all possible.

A quadrennial energy review is based on what they do at the Department of Defense. Every 4 years, the DOD goes through this very detailed, top-to-bottom analysis of all the things they need to consider in the Department of Defense, and they come out with the QDR--the Quadrennial Defense Review. Basically, it looks at what we have and it presents a roadmap for where we need to go.

That is what we need to do with energy. We already have this model that works. This idea would be more governmentwide--not just the Department of Energy but governmentwide. I encourage all my colleagues to look at this and if they wouldn't mind having their staff check back with my office because we would love to have other colleagues as cosponsors if they are interested. I don't think it is controversial. I don't think there is much money or much requirement involved. I think it is good government and smart government to come up with a comprehensive energy policy for our Nation.

In Washington we hear the American people loudly and clearly. We are concerned about gas prices as well on lots of different levels and we will certainly be focused on that and paying a lot of attention to that issue over the next several weeks and, hopefully, we can do some good for the market and do some good for the American people.

With that, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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