THE ENERGY BILL -- (Senate - April 20, 2005)
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, once again, today, President Bush is going to talk about the rising cost of gas and how it is hurting Americans at the pump. He is going to talk again about our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.
Last weekend, President Bush used his radio address to urge Americans to support his energy legislation. He said, and I quote him:
American families and small businesses across the country are feeling the pinch from rising gas prices.
President Bush is right. The fact is American families are struggling. But unfortunately he is wrong about his support of the energy bill and his approach. The issue is not that the President doesn't understand the problem; it is that he does not have a real solution. He has not proposed the kinds of steps that are staring us in the face, available to us to be able to put together a real energy policy for the country. The energy plan he continues to campaign for will, in fact, make the United States more dependent on foreign oil, it will keep gas prices at record highs instead of making them affordable for consumers, and it will make our air and our water more polluted instead of investing in a cleaner future. These are pretty stark choices. Each and every one of them, on examination, is proven in the ways in which this administration has moved backwards on enforcement, backwards with respect to its commitment to a major independent energy policy for the Nation.
What we need to do is provide the Nation with sound solutions that are going to create jobs, instill a greater confidence in our relationships with other countries, and begin to move away from that dependency and to excite the economy through the creation of those kinds of jobs and the commitment to new technologies and to the research and development to create them.
The crisis, as it is currently unfolding, affects our economy. It is a drag on the economy, a drag on growth, a drag on our security, and it is obviously harming our environment.
The status quo energy policies the President is promoting are also hurting consumers at the pump, and no amount of taxpayer-funded, campaign-style events are going to cover up this reality because the evidence is plain for everybody to see at gas stations all across the country. People are now paying an average of $2.28 a gallon at the pump. That is up 6 cents in the last week and over 50 cents in the last year.
All of this has been predictable. The rise of demand in China and the rise of demand in less-developed nations has been there for every economist to lay out over the course of the last years. Notwithstanding the rise in demand and the competition for available oil resources, the United States continues down the same old road. All of the hype about the Arctic Wildlife Refuge or other sources is never going to make up for the reality of how much of the oil reserves are actually available to the United States versus that increasing demand curve.
For the fourth week in a row, gas prices are at an all-time high. They have now increased a staggering 56 percent since 2001. A recent Gallup survey revealed that 44 percent of Americans believe it is extremely important for Congress and the President to address gas prices. But you only need to look at the legislation that is promoted by the President, and set to be voted on in the House this week, to see that, yet again, Washington is turning its back on common sense and turning its back on the best interests of the American people.
Under this administration, higher gas prices cost American consumers an extra $34 billion. If the House passes this bill, the Senate passes it, and the President signs it, it will cost the American consumer $34 billion. Airlines, truckers, and farmers spent an extra $20 billion last year alone. That is a regressive energy tax on the backs of working Americans.
But the administration's friends got off a lot easier than the average American. This energy bill is going to make their load even lighter. While American workers and families were struggling, oil companies earned record profits in the fourth quarter of 2004: ExxonMobil, up 218 percent, ConocoPhillips, up 145 percent; Shell, up 51 percent; ChevronTexaco, up 39 percent; and BP, up 35 percent.
Show me the American worker whose income has gone up by several percentage points, let alone double digits. Show me the American worker whose income has risen so they can keep up with the higher cost of fuel.
What is the President proposing to do about this? Well, 95 percent of the tax benefits included in the President's bill, the bill he supports, more than $8 billion, goes directly into the pockets of big oil and gas companies. At a time when oil prices are at historic highs, our energy policy ought to be aimed at investing in new and renewable sources of energy, not providing another big giveaway to special interests, particularly to the big oil and gas companies that have had these remarkable increases in their profits over the course of the last year.
Simply put, what is good for the administration's contributors has not been good for our economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said:
Markets for oil and natural gas have been subject to a degree of strain over the past year not experienced for a generation.
The Chairman of the President's own Council of Economic Advisors has admitted:
High energy prices are now a drag on our economy.
But the problem goes even deeper. The administration's failure to propose a real energy policy also threatens our national security. We are more dependent on foreign oil than ever before, forcing us into risky and even compromising political entanglements with nations that we rely on for the fuel oil. America will never be fully secure until we free ourselves from the noose of foreign oil.
Unfortunately, the so-called energy plan of the administration does nothing, nothing to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. Don't take my word for it. The President's own economists found that oil imports will actually increase 85 percent by 2025 under a proposal such as we see at this point. The President's economists also found that ``changes to production, consumption, imports, and prices are negligible.''
You don't have to be an expert on oil or on energy policy to understand the basics of where we find ourselves. All you have to do is be able to count. The United States of America only has 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. That is all God gave us, 3 percent. Saudi Arabia has 65 percent of the world's oil reserves. There is no possible way, with the current population growth, the current increase in demand for oil, the current increases in other countries, no possible way for the United States to drill its way to energy independence. We have to invent our way to it.
But the President's energy policy is completely lacking in the major commitment necessary. There are token commitments, yes, but not the major commitment you need in order to spur the investment strategies, in order to spur the research and development and the fast transition in the marketplace we need to provide for the alternative energy sources the country ought to demand.
The President's energy bill is not even a real Band-Aid on the energy crisis that threatens our economy and challenges our national security. What it does do for sure is fatten the coffers of big energy companies.
There is a reason Senator McCain called the energy bill the No Lobbyist Left Behind Act.
What kind of message do these policies send? If your profits go up, your subsidies go up. If the policy makes us more dependent on foreign oil, it makes the status quo even worse.
What we ought to be doing is something profoundly better than this, and we know we could. Energy policy gives us a rare opportunity to address a whole series of challenges at the same time. If we end our dependence on foreign oil and move in that direction, then we begin to
strengthen our national security, and we become more independent and more capable of making choices that are less founded in that dependency. If we lead the world in inventing new energy technologies, we create thousands of high-paying jobs in the United States, and we create products we can export and an expertise we can also export at the same time. If we learn to tap clean sources of energy, then we preserve a clean environment, and we reduce the level of environment-induced cancers and other problems we face. If we remove the burden of high gas prices, then American consumers will have more cash in their pockets, more ability to spend elsewhere, and we give our economy the boost it needs.
Unfortunately, the energy bill before the Congress achieves none of these fundamental goals in the way we could and in the way we need to, given the crisis we face. It is laden with handouts to corporate interests. Over the period of the next days, I will lay out further the specifics of those particular linkages and what they mean to us.
We have an opportunity to change the direction of our country, to change our economy and make ourselves more secure and to create jobs. The solutions to our energy crises, all of them, are staring us in the face. The fact is, a number of years ago, back in 1973, when the first oil crisis hit, and then in the latter part of the 1970s, this country did move to try to create a real policy of alternative energy. The result was thousands of small companies started up around solar or wind or alternatives. But then, unfortunately, in the 1980s, the Government pulled back from that commitment and many of those companies were lost and much of that technology shifted and was lost to Japan or to Germany or to other countries. The record of jobs lost versus jobs created and of opportunities lost versus opportunities seized is a clear one. It is long past time we get the politics out of this and put practical, real and, in some cases, visionary solutions on the table so we can strengthen our own economy, strengthen our country, and provide ourselves with alternatives that will make our Nation both healthier and safer at the same time.
I believe we owe the Nation more than staged political events and rhetoric in the effort to move to that future, and I hope we will do so.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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