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Public Statements

Building America's Energy Security

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRIFFITH of Virginia. I thank you so much for the opportunity to speak this afternoon on these important issues.

It's true that offshore in Virginia is something we've been discussing since 2004. What's interesting is that a lot of the folks said, You don't really want to do that in 2004. It's not going to really help gas prices. Do you know why? Because it will take 7 to 10 years to get it developed.

Guess what? If we'd have started in 2004 drilling off the coast of Virginia, we'd be getting that natural gas, and we'd be getting that oil off the coast of Virginia right now. It would be creating jobs. It would be creating tax dollars that could go to schools, roads--you name it--whatever the legislature in Virginia decided it wanted to spend it on. It could be going to increase the revenues of the United States of America as well. Likewise, this Congress could then be debating the expenditure of those funds and what we wanted to do with those moneys.

Instead, the naysayers keep saying, Well, not now, not now. I say to them, If not now, when? When are we going to do this? We know it's out there. We know it's a huge resource for the United States of America.

Then yesterday, on top of blocking our ability to get from the other side of the State the natural gas and the oil that is there and that we know is there and that we want to get to, the President of the United States declared what I call the ``war on coal--phase 2.'' He has already been involved in phase 1 for some time, but in his comments yesterday, he made it clear that he's not going to wait for science to get us a solution--because it's coming. There is research that's being done on chemical looping and on other ways to use coal cleanly, where you end up with coal ash and carbon dioxide--no SOx, no NO

X, no mercury. It's coal ash and carbon dioxide, and you can recycle the iron pellets that they use. I mean, it's really a wonderful process, but we have testing left to do on it. It has already been working at Ohio State University. They are building a facility in Alabama, and they are going to be doing testing beginning later this year that will end next year on a bigger project than what they did at Ohio State, but still it's got another phase to go even after that.

If we wait just a few years and if we do reasonable things now and if we wait for science to catch up, we can, in fact, accomplish what the President wants to accomplish on the environment and not destroy the jobs of southwest Virginia, the central Appalachia region and all other coal-producing States. There are more than 20 of them that are coal-producing States. We will be damaging their economies if we go forward.

It's interesting that the President noted in his speech and said:

Now, what you'll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's exactly what you'll hear. Do you know why you're going to hear it? Because it's true.

And if being a special interest means you have to be one of the people that lost their job in the coal fields of southwest Virginia or Kentucky or West Virginia or any of the other States where jobs--we've been losing them monthly. We get reports of another 25 here, another 15 there, people who've been laid off in the coal fields. And it's not just the coal fields. It's the railroads that haul the coal. It's the people at the manufacturing centers that make the equipment for the mines. It's the car dealerships that used to sell cars to the miners, who used to have jobs.

Let me make something clear, folks. Being in the mine is a hard job. There's no question about it. And we want to make sure health concerns are taken into consideration because it does have dangers to it. There is no question about that. But the workers in those mines are making somewhere between $75,000 and $95,000 a year if you add in their benefits. You take a district like mine, the Ninth District of Virginia, where the average household income is around $36,000 a year, and you start laying off 15 $75,000 to $95,000-a-year jobs here with health insurance included, you lay off another 25 jobs here and 30 jobs there, and ladies and gentlemen, you want to talk about destroying the economy, you're darn right you're going to destroy the economy. And if standing up for the special interests of the people who work in the mines, the people who work in the equipment factories, the people who work at the car dealerships, the people who work at the restaurants in southwest Virginia is a bad thing, then I guess I'll just keep doing a bad thing because I will continue to fight for southwest Virginia and the jobs in the coal fields.

The other thing the President went on later to say was that this issue didn't used to be partisan and now it's partisan. Guess what? The President is wrong. This is a bipartisan issue. And I'm going to look at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and read you some quotes from some of my Democrat colleagues because it's important for the people of America to know that the President may want to divide, but in the coal fields we understand exactly what this is going to do to our jobs and our economy, and ultimately to the economy of the United States of America.

U.S. Representative Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia said:

Obama's climate change plan is misguided and could cost millions of jobs.

That's not a Republican. That's a Democrat. He goes on.

The misguided, misinformed and untenable policy that the President put forth this afternoon puts at risk the energy security of America and the jobs of millions of our citizens.

Rahall continued saying:

Locking away the fuels that power our Nation behind ideologically imposed barriers will drive up costs for nearly every business and manner of industrial activity while driving jobs overseas. Households already struggling to make ends meet will see energy bills skyrocket.

That's Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia. He goes on to say:

The administration should be advocating new clean-coal technologies as opposed to crippling regulations.

Isn't that really where the President has been going the whole time? He said in the San Francisco Chronicle interview of 1-17-08:

When I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, you know under a plan of cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.

Nick Rahall:

Households already struggling to make ends meet will see energy bills skyrocket.

The President is doing what he said he was going to do. He declared war on coal, and now he's going to try to see if he can't finish it by devastating the American economy and the economy of southwest Virginia and central Appalachia. It's just not right.

Mr. President, let's look at the science that your administration has invested money into. Chemical looping may be the way that we can both have what we want. I want and my colleagues want jobs for America, tax dollars coming in off of coal severance, natural gas, offshore drilling. We want to see those tax revenues coming in because then we can use that to help Americans. We want to help all Americans. You want to clean up the environment, and so do we. We can do it, but we have to be reasonable.

Let's go forward and look at another Democrat, and that would be Senator Joe Manchin, and he touches on this point in his comments in the Bluefield paper. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said:

Obama's plan will have disastrous consequences for not only the coal industry, but also American jobs and the economy.

Democrat Manchin goes on:

The regulations the President wants to force on coal are not feasible. And if it's not feasible, it's not reasonable.

It's clear now that the President has declared a war on coal. It's simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology. The fact is clear: our own Energy Department reports that our country will get 37 percent of our energy from coal until the year 2040. Removing coal from our energy mix will have a disastrous consequence for our recovering economy.

These policies punish American businesses by putting them at a competitive disadvantage with our global competitors, and those competitors burn seven-eighths of the world's coal, and they're not going to stop using coal any time soon. It's only common sense to use our domestic resources, and that includes our coal.

Senator Manchin is absolutely right because let me tell you that when we burn coal here and we create jobs here in the United States of America, as you well know, that means we're not sending those manufacturing jobs overseas to another country. Particularly if those countries are in Asia or in some of the emerging economies, they don't have anywhere near the regulations we have. They don't have the regulations we had in the year 2000 or the year 2005 to comply with.

So we can create the goods here, create jobs for Americans, create tax dollars which will help us deal with the national debt and deficit problem. We can do all of that here, and we can do it by burning coal more efficiently and cleaner than the countries that we're competing with. But instead the President wants to ignore all that. He wants to ignore those facts and go forward and say, No, we can't do that.

I go on with the quotes from the San Francisco Chronicle because right now he's not singing the same tune. He goes on to say after the ``skyrocket.''

Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I'm capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.

Who are the consumers? I believe the consumers are the average family out there, the single parent trying to raise children, the elderly, the folks trying to struggle with that $36,000-a-year-annual-household income, the miners and the workers in the factories that produce the goods that help the miners do their job who now don't have jobs, they're still going to have that electric bill coming in.

You know, it's interesting that the President actually cut in his budget proposal the LIHEAP money, which is the program to help the people who can't afford to pay their heat bill. So at the same time we're creating more unemployment, we are also going to take away some of the benefits that helps those folks. It just doesn't make sense. The President's policies don't make sense, and I submit to you all that the President needs to rethink this. He needs to look at clean-coal technology because that's the winner for America, for American jobs, for American prosperity and for America to go forward into the future, leading the way.


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