Democratic News

Bipartisan Bill Aims To Boost Efficiency,
Reduce U.S. Reliance on Imported Oil
 
In a display of bipartisanship on a critical national issue, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) have joined in putting together legislation aimed at reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil.

The Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006, introduced today, will greatly spur energy conservation, with a focus on reducing oil demand through greater fuel efficiency and finding ways to moderate natural gas demand by promoting renewable electricity production.  Among the most important provisions of the bill will be an emphasis on an expanded plan for economy-wide oil savings that will cut oil use, from projected levels, by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2016, 7 million barrels of oil per day by 2026, and 10 million barrels of oil per day by 2031.

 
“Time is running out in this Congress to take action on energy,” Bingaman pointed out.  “To be effective in responding to our current energy crisis, we must be focused, we must be realistic, and we must be bipartisan.  The bill that we are introducing today accomplishes all three goals, and will help consumers by making them more efficient in their use of oil and natural gas.”
“The high gas prices we are facing today can only be addressed by a serious, long-term effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Bayh said.  “Everything from our national security to our economy is impacted by our energy demands, and it will take an effort equal to that of landing a man on the moon to develop a strategy to meet those needs.  The bipartisan energy plan we have introduced today represents a real step toward meeting that challenge.”
“With gas prices continuing to rise, the burden of our reliance on foreign oil is now being felt in nearly every household and business," said Coleman.  "Not only does this reliance result in economic strain, it is a threat to our national security.  It’s time we take our energy future out of the hands of foreign nations and implement an aggressive national energy plan that returns Americans to the driver’s seat.  This plan will do exactly that."
 
“To free ourselves from recurring gas price spikes, the caprice of volatile and even hostile nations, and the threat of global warming, we must end our addiction to oil,” Lieberman said. “This legislation would put our economy on an oil-reducing diet and push to market the alternative fuels and advanced technologies that will end our oil addiction. It is now time that everyone - including the Bush Administration – take action on one of the biggest economic and national security challenges of our generation."
 
“Our nation’s overdependence on oil is a dangerous addiction.  It harms our environment, hurts our economy, and imperils our national security,” said Chafee.  “While we must resolve the short term price situation that we are facing today, we also must take a critical look at where we as a nation are going in the longer term.  This bipartisan legislation is a promising first step to set America free from its reliance on foreign oil.”
 
            The legislation includes a variety of initiatives designed to reduce our nation’s nearly total reliance on petroleum products in the transportation sector, including programs that will:
·        Speed the development of new vehicle technologies such as plug-in hybrids and the use of advanced light weight materials in vehicles;
·        Expand the authority of the Secretary of Energy to provide loan guarantees and competitive grants to automakers and parts manufacturers to convert existing plants or to build new facilities for manufacturing fuel-efficient vehicles and vehicle components;
·        Increase the availability of alternative fuels, such as E85, across the country by providing funding for alternative fueling stations;
·        Provide funds to states for programs to encourage motorists to retire vehicles that are inefficient, and for programs to reduce school bus idling; and
·        Provide incentives for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
 
The bill is similar to legislation that Sens. Bayh, Brownback, Lieberman and Coleman introduced last year.  That bill – S.2025, the Vehicle Fuel Choice Act -- provided a mix of energy policy and energy tax incentives aimed at moving our economy toward both more efficient use of oil and a more diverse future mix of transportation fuels, including biofuels.  Bingaman and 16 other senators co-sponsored that bill.
 
Because S.2025 mixed policy and tax provisions, it was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.  Yet, many of the provisions of S.2025 are in the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy Committee.  The Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006 takes those energy provisions and puts them in a bill that will be referred to the Energy Committee.  “In this way, we will have a starting point for what I hope will be an effective and bipartisan committee process – in the tradition of bipartisan leadership on energy that our Committee has shown in this Congress under Senator Domenici,” Bingaman said.
The new bill also includes a number of provisions aimed at relieving demand and price pressure on natural gas, encouraging states to strengthen their programs on demand-side management, and better educating consumers about energy efficiency measures that they can take.
 
In addition to this bill, Sen. Bingaman and other senators today introduced, also on a bipartisan basis, legislation that will extend a variety of tax provisions contained in the energy bill enacted last year to encourage efficiency investments and the development of renewables. It also will provide new incentives to help Americans buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.  The cost of these incentives will be offset by closing various tax loopholes for large oil companies.
 
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