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Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. MURKOWSKI. Madam President, I certainly appreciate the comments from my friend and fellow Senator. He does speak to the obvious. We have an opportunity for some amendments on what I think most of us would agree is an important bill, this energy efficiency bill. How we move forward is indicative of whether this is a body that is going to start working, whether this is going to be a body that is defined as dysfunctional or, as was suggested earlier in a report that came out early in September, that this Senate could prove to be the least productive in our Senate history.

That is not a title or a banner this Senator wants to wear. I think we want to work around here. I think we want to try to produce. I think we want to legislate. In fact, I know that is what I want to do. That is why I applaud my colleagues, Senator Shaheen and Senator Portman, for all of the effort they have given--themselves, their staffs working with the chairman of the energy committee, his staff, my staff working together for a couple of years now--to produce what I think is a pretty good bill. This is a bill that is focused on a piece of our energy portfolio, if you will, that is critically important: the aspect of efficiency and how we work to use less.

What we have in front of us is not legislation that is controversial in the sense that it is pitting different philosophies against one another. We are bogged down in our own inertia and cannot figure out how we even get to start. That is a pretty poor reflection on us. The way we get to start is how we started this debate just a few days ago, when Senator Wyden and I came to the floor with the sponsors of the bill, Senator Shaheen, Senator Portman, and we said: OK, great bill. We talked about the advantages of energy efficiency and all that Shaheen-Portman delivers, this very bipartisan product and effort.

Then we started talking about amendments, amendments that would actually strengthen this bill. We had no fewer than one dozen Members come to the floor, on both sides of the aisle, talking about their good ideas, how we are going to build in more efficiencies--whether it is in our schools or public buildings; how we can help nonprofits. These are all good, strong, healthy ideas.

Then we are here today and, as my friend from Wyoming has indicated, we are stalled out. We are not moving forward. The majority leader suggested this morning--his words, not mine--that we perhaps would not finish this legislation. That is quite disturbing to me. That is quite disturbing to me because if we cannot finish legislation such as an energy efficiency bill, something that most of us would recognize is a good approach to our energy issues in this country, what are we going to be able to do on the very big stuff?

We talk about pent-up demand for amendments. Let me suggest there is a pent-up demand for real energy legislation. For 5 years now we have not seen an energy measure debated on the floor of the Senate. That doesn't mean we have not passed some good energy bills. In fact, I was pleased to work with the chairman in passing two hydroelectric bills just before the August recess. These are good bills. These are truly going to help us as we work to reduce our emissions, provide for jobs, provide for greater electrification across the country. These are good. But we have not had that good, comprehensive discussion about the energy issues that have impacted our Nation in the past 5 years.

Think about what has happened in 5 years. Five years ago, if someone had mentioned the shale revolution, people would not have had a clue what they were talking about.

Think about what has happened with natural gas over the past 5 years. The Presiding Officer knows full well because her State has the lowest unemployment in the Nation. The Presiding Officer represents a State where almost everybody has a job. In fact, most people have two or three jobs.

When you think about the changing dynamics of an energy world, think about it in the context of a timeline. What happened over the last 5 years? Boom. Think about what happened to the economy. We read the articles from just a couple of weeks ago about how natural gas is not only helping those who work in the industry, it is a rising tide that lifts all boats. When people are paying less for their utilities, it allows them to spend more on the economy, and as a result everyone is benefiting. Our economy is benefiting and the unemployment picture is improving.

We are seeing good, positive things because of our energy future. Everybody seems to be bullish about it except us in the Senate because we cannot seem to get an energy bill to the floor. When we do finally have a bill, after years of good hard work by good folks wanting to do the right thing, we get to the floor and we get stalled out.

Again, there is pent-up demand for amendments because what we have known as regular order has not been so regular anymore. The chairman of the energy committee, and I, as the ranking member, think we have worked very hard. We have worked diligently on a daily basis to make sure we are working within our committee. We are producing bills.

In fact, as I understand, our committee has produced more than half of all the bills that have been reported and are ready for action on the floor. We have rolled up our sleeves and said: There are going to be areas where we disagree, but on those areas where we can come together and make some good happen, let's make it happen, and we have been doing that. But you know what. If a committee works hard and produces good things and still doesn't go anywhere--wow. After a while we wonder why we are working so hard around here.

I know why I am working hard. I am working hard because the people in my State pay more for their energy than anyplace else in the country. I am working hard to make sure we have jobs for Alaskans and jobs for all people. I am working hard because I think the energy policy is fundamental to everything we do. We need to have the opportunity to have a full-on debate, and if we have some amendments that are tough, that is the way it is. Nobody asked me to come here and represent the people of Alaska because they knew that every vote was going to be easy. That is not how it works. Let's take some of the hard votes and let's get to the business at hand, which is a good, strong, bipartisan energy efficiency bill. Then when we are done with that one, I want to work with the chairman to address the unfinished business.

I want to work on measures that will help us enhance our energy production, whether it is with our natural gas onshore or offshore, whether it is to do what we can so we truly become an energy-independent nation or whether it is how we deal with some pretty hard issues, such as how we treat our nuclear waste and how we are going to move forward with an energy future that is based on renewables and alternatives, which I am all about.

We all stand here and talk about an "all of the above'' approach. But you know what. People stop believing it when we just talk about it and we don't do anything to enhance our policies because we cannot get a bill to the floor. Then, when we get a bill to the floor, we hamstring ourselves.

I am not ready to give up on this energy efficiency bill. I am not ready to give up on energy policy or legislating in the energy sector just because we are getting bogged down. We have to demonstrate to the American public that we are governing. They are asking us to lead in an area on which we have not legislated in 5 years.

I know my colleague from Oregon, the chairman, agrees with me when I say we had some issues within our committee, and we are proud of the work we have done. We have proposals that focus on how we can make existing programs better or perhaps we need to repeal them. We have worked hard on a bipartisan basis with the authorizers and the appropriators to develop a good, solid proposal for how we deal with nuclear waste. If we cannot move forward on energy efficiency, how are we going to tackle these hard issues? How are we going to tackle the issues as they relate to this amazing expansion of natural gas and the recognition that we need to have an infrastructure that keeps up with demand and everything else that is going on?

We are not giving up on this bill. We are not going to give up on the good bipartisan work Senator Shaheen and Senator Portman have crafted. There are many other Members who have stepped forward to say: This is good stuff. Let's make it happen. So there is a lot of pent-up demand. For those who have waited a couple of weeks for their amendment, good. We need to address those too. But let's not sacrifice a good, strong bill that can be made better by good amendments to the bill itself. Let's not sacrifice that. This is a bill that has been in process for a couple of years because folks are saying: I have to have my piece right now. We can figure out how we craft an agreement that is workable from both sides.

I am certainly prepared to continue that work, and if the deal that has been offered at this point in time is not acceptable, OK, let's go back and figure out what is going to be acceptable. Let's not throw in the towel. This is too important. We have too much pent-up demand for energy solutions for this country.

I am here to stay focused on the issues at hand, but what we have in front of us--the bill we are working on--is a good, strong, bipartisan energy efficiency bill, and I want to continue that. I know my colleague, the chairman of the committee, wants to continue with that, and I think that is our effort here.

With that, I thank those who have stuck with us throughout this past week, but I am hoping we are going to be sticking with this for a while longer and we are going to see this bill cross the finish line.

I know the chairman wants to speak as well.

I yield the floor.

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