Democratic News

The Senate today evoked cloture on a motion to proceed to an energy bill. We will officially begin debating the bill and offering amendments at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.  Here is ENR Chairman Jeff Bingaman’s opening statement:
 
 
“Mr. President, today we begin considering energy legislation in the Senate.  Later today, we will be voting to take up legislation that will make meaningful, bipartisan progress in charting a new direction for America’s energy policy.
 
“There is a growing consensus — among Federal, state and local policymakers across the ideological spectrum, corporate leaders and the American public in general — that our nation must move faster and go farther to secure its energy future.
 
“American families, farmers and businesses look no further than the prices posted at their corner gas stations to see vivid, daily indicators of the economic perils inherent in the status quo.  In fact, they’ve watched as gas prices have stayed at more than $3 per gallon for more than a month.
 
“Our national security experts cite the geopolitical implications and foreign policy challenges presented by the rise of state-owned energy companies and our dependence on oil imports.  In 2005, the United States imported roughly 60 percent of the petroleum it consumed.
 
“Without decisive action, that  figure is projected to approach 70 percent over the next two decades, with more than 35 percent of that increase expected to come from member-nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
 
“Meanwhile, economists take note of our energy policy’s fiscal implications, related to America’s global competitiveness. In 2005 and 2006, our dependence on petroleum imports combined with rising prices to add an estimated $120 billion to our nation’s trade deficit.
 
“There’s no doubt that there is a compelling case for action. But there is also something more fundamental, embedded in the American consciousness, that’s animating the national call for a new direction in our energy policy.
 
“As President Franklin Roosevelt once observed, ‘The creed of our democracy is that liberty is acquired and kept by men and women who are strong and self-reliant …’ Perhaps it is this American principle of self-reliance that is driving the national debate forward, when it comes to our energy policy.
 
“After all, by tapping America’s limitless capacity for innovation — our most abundant renewable resource — the United States can become more energy self-sufficient.
  
“Americans believe we can — and should — lead the world, when it comes to developing the new technologies that will produce clean, alternative energy and help address the threat of global warming.
 
“And inherent in this grand challenge is enormous opportunity: to build a stronger economy, create the high-paying jobs of the 21st Century, and lower our energy costs.
 
“Mr. President, no single political party has a monopoly on these ideas.  Rather, these ideas are broadly shared by members of the Senate, on both sides of the aisle. The shared will to make progress in securing America’s energy future is what has brought us to this point today.
 
“Later this afternoon, we will vote on a motion to proceed to legislation that represents the bipartisan efforts of four Committees in the Senate: the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Commerce Committee; and the Foreign Relations Committee.
 
“And if we are successful in bringing this measure before the Senate, I believe that by the time debate is concluded, we will also have the recommendations of a fifth Committee, Senate Finance, to add to this legislation.
 
“Suffice it to say, there has been a tremendous amount of bipartisan legislative effort on display, in bringing this measure forward.  Since the outset of the 110th Congress, the Senate has held more than 50 hearings on energy- and climate-related issues — that is, at least one hearing every other day.
 
“As it relates to what we’ve been able to accomplish in the Senate Energy Committee, I must at the outset thank the Ranking Member, Senator Domenici, for the goodwill and diligence he has demonstrated throughout this effort.
 
“On just the second day of the 110th Congress, we jointly announced an all-day conference related to biofuels policy, which drew submissions and suggestions from more than 100 stakeholders.  During an all-day session attended by nearly every member of the Committee, we heard from about 30 experts that gave us suggestions forming the intellectual basis for the Committee’s work in the important area of renewable fuels.
 
“Subsequently, we held more than 15 energy policy-related hearings, including eight oversight and legislative sessions specifically tailored to take testimony on the issues at the core of our legislation — which, in addition to biofuels, covers the topics of energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage.
 
“As a result of this process, Senator Domenici and I were able to circulate a bipartisan proposal for mark-up.  And after a session at which we adopted almost 30 amendments from members on both sides of the dais, the Energy Committee reported legislation with a substantial bipartisan margin of 20-3.
 
“On the whole, I think what we were able to accomplish — in a relatively short period of time — is something all the members of our Committee can be proud of.  As I mentioned, the legislation touches on three topics key to our energy future:
 
  • It boosts domestic renewable fuel supplies, in a manner that will reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and spur regional diversity of biofuels production and infrastructure;
 
  • It will enhance economy-wide energy efficiency, in a way that will reduce our nation’s imports of foreign oil and provide significant savings to consumers; and
 
  • It will invest in the carbon capture and storage technologies that will help cut back on the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
 
“Mr. President, I think it would also be helpful to describe for my colleagues some of these issues in greater detail.
 
“First, on the topic of biofuels: there is no question that, in recent years, a number of factors have sharpened public focus on the search for viable alternatives to conventional petroleum-based fuels. I’ve already described many of these factors, including increased world oil prices, concerns regarding import dependence, and the environmental effects of vehicle emissions.
 
“Biofuels — a term which includes ethanol and biodiesel — can be derived from an array of crops and other biological materials available throughout the nation.
 
“Since the 1970s, all cars and light-trucks with gasoline engines built for the U.S. market have been able to run on ethanol blends of up to 10 percent (E10).  A smaller yet increasing number of vehicles — estimated at about 6 million on American roads today — can run on fuel comprised of 85 percent ethanol, or E85.  Meanwhile, existing diesel engines can run on biodiesel in any concentration.  Due to concerns about quality standards, however, manufacturers may not honor warranties for engines running on biodiesel blends in excess of 5 percent (B5) or 20 percent (B20).
 
“There is little question that passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was a watershed event for the nation's biofuels industry, establishing the first Federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).  The RFS created an escalating requirement for the amount of biofuels blended in U.S. gasoline, starting with 4 billion gallons in 2006, and accelerating to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012.
 
“However, less than two years after the Energy Policy Act was signed by President Bush, increased use of biofuels is already surpassing the original RFS targets, with 5 billion gallons added to U.S. gasoline in 2006.  Another 6 billion gallons of production capacity is expected to go into operation by 2009, bringing total domestic production capacity to approximately 11.7 billion gallons.  According to the Energy Information Administration's 2007 Annual Energy Outlook, ‘the market potential for biofuel blends (E10, B5 and B20) remains significantly larger than current production levels and will continue to absorb the biofuel supply for the foreseeable future.’”
 
“Yet, as the Energy Committee began developing its legislation, it was obvious that significant challenges remain if biofuels are to become a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to improve our energy self-sufficiency.
 
“Today, approximately 98 percent of domestic ethanol production is derived from cornstarch -- creating upward pressure on commodity prices, restricting production to regions of the country where corn is grown, and posing challenges to efficient distribution of the fuel.
 
“Diversifying feedstocks to include a broader array of renewable biomass can promote regional diversity in biofuels production and distribution, spreading economic benefits to rural communities across the country and relieving pressure on corn commodity prices. In addition, it can lead to greater efficiency in the fuel-production process and help save on fossil fuel emissions.
 
“Another issue key to making biofuels a significant factor in displacing domestic petroleum use relates to existing infrastructure challenges. Of the nearly 170,000 vehicle fueling stations in the U.S., just one percent carried E85 or biodiesel in 2006. Consumers must have access to these fuels, if they are to become a viable alternative.
 
“To address these various challenges, the Energy Committee’s legislation increases and extends the existing RFS to 36 billion gallons in 2022 -- with specific incentives for the production of biofuels from new sources of renewable biomass. Taken together, these provisions will help provide market certainty to both the existing ethanol industry and the next generation of advanced biofuels producers.
 
“In addition, our legislation provides resources to help break down infrastructure barriers to renewable fuel distribution, and invests in research into the basic scientific challenges associated with the use of promising new feedstocks.
 
“All together, the Energy Information Administration has estimated, the legislation’s biofuels provisions can help reduce America’s petroleum imports by a million barrels per day — an important contribution to improving our national energy security.
 
“The second major topic of the Energy Committee’s reported legislation is energy efficiency. The obvious goal of these provisions is to use existing resources more efficiently, which promises to further enhance U.S. self-sufficiency, provide environmental benefits, and save consumers money.
 
“Improving efficiency in transportation remains one of the most important — and vexing — energy challenges facing the nation. Consumption of liquid fuels is currently projected to grow by more than 6 million barrels per day, from 2005 to 2030 — with 5.8 million barrels per day attributable to transportation.  As fuel consumption increases, so too do U.S. imports — a key concern for both economic and national security reasons I’ve already discussed.
 
“The Senate Commerce Committee has reported legislation that will increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for the first time in many years, which is also included in the bill we will vote on later today.
 
“The Commerce Committee’s Chairman and Vice-Chairman are to be congratulated, on finding a way forward on this very difficult issue.
 
“As such, I’m pleased to say that the provisions reported by the Energy Committee also support the goal of reducing the transportation sector's consumption of liquid fuels in general, and gasoline in particular.  Our provisions establish an escalating goal for reducing U.S. gasoline consumption, starting with 20 percent in 2017.  That’s enough to reduce world oil prices more than $2.50 per barrel under current EIA assumptions.
 
“This national goal ramps up to 45 percent in 2030, equivalent to 5.6 million barrels of oil per day.  That’s more than twice the amount of oil the U.S. imported from the Persian Gulf in 2005.
 
“To complement these initiatives, the legislation also makes investments in advanced vehicle technology development, basic science related to energy storage, and public education about how consumers can help reduce their own petroleum consumption.
 
“In addition to the transportation sector, efficiency is a resource we can better deploy in end-uses throughout the U.S. economy.  For example, lighting and common household appliances can account for as much as two-thirds of an average American family’s electricity bills.  By improving a number of appliance efficiency standards, and streamlining and strengthening the Department of Energy’s existing program, consumers stand to collect $12 billion in benefits as a result of provisions included in the underlying legislation.
 
“In fact, all together, the bill’s appliance efficiency provisions will save at least 50 billion kilowatt hours per year, or enough to power roughly 4.8 million typical U.S. households.
 
“It will save 17 trillion BTUs of natural gas per year, or enough to heat about a quarter-million typical U.S. homes.
 
“And it will conserve at least 560 million gallons of water per day — or 1.3 percent of daily potable water usage across the nation.  These savings result from provisions that establish the first ever, federal water conservation standards for clothes and dish-washers.
 
“Finally, on the topic of efficiency: the legislation recognizes that the federal government itself represents the nation's largest energy consumer and can play a key role in bringing new technologies to market.  The Federal government has an obligation to lead by example. And in doing so, we can save taxpayers money.
 
“For example, even as the government has reduced its energy consumption — saving 2.5 percent from Fiscal Year 2004 to Fiscal Year 2005--federal energy costs nevertheless increased 24.1 percent, to $14.5 billion.
 
“Clearly, rising energy prices have an impact on the federal budget, just as they impact the bottom-line for families and businesses across America.  
 
“So to capture additional savings, the legislation strengthens Federal efficiency requirements — from lighting procurement, to petroleum displacement, to energy management strategies across Federal buildings.  As a result, leading efficiency groups have estimated that the legislation’s provisions in this area can save 60 trillion BTUs of energy, 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, and almost $4 billion in taxpayers’ money between now and 2015.
 
“The final issue touched on by the Energy Committee’s reported legislation relates to carbon capture and storage, or carbon sequestration. This is an area that has attracted interest as a measure for mitigating global warming.
 
“While scientific and technological challenges remain, carbon sequestration holds particular promise related to the potentially large amounts of carbon dioxide emitted from the use of fossil fuels.
 
“Electric generating plants may be the most likely initial candidates for implementing carbon sequestration, given that they are predominantly large, single-point sources, and contribute an estimated one-third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
 
“From the Committee’s review of this issue, we have learned that a viable, integrated carbon capture and storage system would include three main components: the capture and separation of carbon dioxide at the source of generation; the transportation of captured carbon dioxide to a storage site; and, finally, storage in a geological reservoir. There are also many direct or indirect methods by which carbon storage can occur.
 
“The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the Secretary of Energy to carry out research and development on technologies designed to capture carbon dioxide, specifically with respect to combustion-based energy systems.
 
“However, given the critical nature of these efforts, the need to demonstrate emerging methodologies and the potential to apply them to a wider variety of energy technologies, our legislation strengthens and further expands this research.
 
“In summary, I believe the Energy Committee has produced legislation that will help us move forward expeditiously with groundbreaking research on carbon sequestration that’s key to addressing global warming; it will help spur diverse, domestic renewable fuels production; and it will promote energy efficiency throughout the economy.
 
“These efforts have been further complimented by the good, bipartisan work of the other Senate Committees I’ve mentioned.
 
“Taken together, these bipartisan measures form the backbone of a national strategy that meets three complementary goals: boosting U.S. energy self-sufficiency; driving American leadership in clean, alternative energy; and putting us on a trajectory to address the threat of global warming.
 
“Given the growing national appetite for a new path on energy policy, I hope the Senate will seize the opportunity before it when we vote later today.  If we are successful in bringing up this legislation, we will have the opportunity to further improve it through the amendment process.
 
“Undoubtedly, we will debate amendments that will bring out strong opinions, and we will have some heated — yet honest — debates.
But I am confident that as long as we keep in mind our shared goal — to work together and produce legislation that makes meaningful progress on securing America’s energy future — the Senate will rise to the occasion.  The American people expect nothing less.
 
“Changing the trajectory of our energy policy is a top priority for this Nation.  And it will require that we continue in the spirit of compromise and cooperation that has brought us thus far in the process.
 
“So I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the motion to proceed to energy legislation, which we will have later this afternoon. And now I’d like to recognize the Ranking Member of the Energy Committee, Senator Domenici, and thank him once again for his leadership and assistance in bringing this energy policy legislation forward.”
 
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