Floor Statement on Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives
MR. REED: Mr. President, energy is the lifeblood of our economy. It is fundamental to powering our homes, businesses, manufacturing, and the transportation of goods and services that are vital to America and the world economy. But the fossil fuels our country currently relies on are unsustainable. Our nation's addiction to oil is threatening our national security and dramatically changing the climate in which we live.
Setting America on a course of greater energy self-reliance is one of the most significant foreign policy, economic, and environmental challenges we face as a nation.
Senators Bingaman, Domenici, Inouye, and Stevens have put a great deal of effort in developing this Energy bill, and it is an excellent first step. The bill will improve our nation's energy efficiency, protect consumers from price gouging, increase vehicle economy standards, and decrease our reliance on oil, especially from unstable regions of the world.
President Bush admitted we are addicted to oil. But for the last 6 years, neither he nor the Congress was willing to take real action to change that fact. I commend Senator Harry Reid for bringing this legislation to the floor.
For the first time in 30 years, the Senate is now poised to pass legislation to increase vehicle fuel standards. I commend particularly Senators Feinstein and Durbin and Snowe for their work on this issue. I was glad to be an original cosponsor of the ten-in-ten bill, which is the basis of the bipartisan compromise in the legislation we are considering today.
The debate about fuel economy standards should be over. We have the technology to get well beyond 35 miles per gallon, and the American public supports an increase in fuel efficiency standards. The time for action is long overdue, and I hope my colleagues will resist efforts to weaken these standards.
We have an opportunity to create a new energy future for the country. That future would strengthen our national security by making us more self-reliant and slow the impacts of global warming on our climate by investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and biofuels. I do not believe we can drill or mine our way to energy independence. Increasing the importation of foreign oil and natural gas is not the answer. Developing more nuclear power, given its price, legacy, cost, and safety threats, remains very problematic. Investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy is a win-win situation. These investments offer short-term and long-term solutions to strengthen our national security by reducing our energy consumption and making us less reliant on oil from unstable regions of the world. It enhances our economic competitiveness by creating American jobs in this new green economy, and it will protect our environment by reducing our carbon footprint.
Sixty percent of the oil consumed by Americans comes from abroad. While Canada and Mexico are our top suppliers, OPEC nations hold the cards in a global oil market, and a portion of the money we spend on oil undoubtedly finds its way into the hands of unstable and unfriendly regimes. Two-thirds of the global oil reserves are in the Middle East, and more than 75 percent of global oil production is already in the hands of state-controlled oil companies. With growing global demand and limited remaining oil supply, many countries, including our allies and trading partners, will compete with us for finite oil supplies as their and our own economy rely more heavily on imports. This will inevitably stress the delicate balance that exists among national interests in the world, and it gives oil-rich nations disproportionate leverage in the international arena. Al-Qaida and other terrorist networks have openly called for and carried out attacks on oil infrastructure because they know oil is the economic lifeline of industrial economies, especially the United States.
Today, we have an opportunity to shift the balance of power around the globe that is dictated by oil. Our first step is to strengthen our national security by increasing CAFE standards.
Raising fuel economy standards is an essential insurance policy against the risk of oil dependence and global warming, which pose vital threats to our national security. Fuel economy standards have proven effective at reducing our demand for oil, but they have been stagnant for more than a decade, despite advances in vehicle technology. The fact that our industrial competitors are increasing mileage standards underscores how we have been lagging behind the world economy in terms of technology, in terms of applying that technology through increasing the standards for automobiles in our country. Achieving a 35-mile-per-gallon fuel economy over the next decade, the equivalent of the 4-percent-a-year improvement called for by President Bush, is achievable. Beginning in 2011, this bill requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to annually increase the nationwide average fleet fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to achieve a standard of 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020. By 2020, the bill would reduce our nation's oil dependence by approximately 1.3 million barrels per day, and in that year alone will save consumers $26 billion, and global warming emissions will be reduced by over 200 million metric tons. These savings will continue to increase each year, year after year.
This is the best investment we can have, I believe, in both national security and improved environmental quality, not just for us but for the world.
Strong mileage standards will also make us more competitive. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, U.S. automakers could increase revenues by $2 billion and save between 15,000 and 35,000 jobs for autoworkers if we improve gas mileage. Higher fuel efficiency standards will help U.S. automobile manufacturers to better compete in the global marketplaces. The pricetag of our oil dependence is also not sustainable. According to a Department of Defense report:
The United States bears many costs associated with the stability of the global oil market and infrastructure. The cost -- according to this report -- of securing Persian Gulf sources alone comes to $44.4 billion annually for the United States.
We are literally policing the world oil market for the benefit of the world economy, with great cost in terms of dollars but also in terms of the huge pressure on our military forces and their families.
We lose $25 billion from our economy every month, and oil imports now account for nearly a third of the national trade deficit because of our dependence on oil. The economy is exposed to oil price shocks and supply disruptions, and families are feeling the pinch of oil prices. High energy prices reduce consumer spending power and affect businesses' bottom lines.
Millions of petrodollars are being exported out of U.S. cities and counties to pay for energy with a real effect on local economic vitality. In Rhode Island, my home State, gas prices have increased by $1.50 per gallon, an increase of 99 percent, since 2001. Households in Rhode Island are paying $1,430 more per year for gasoline than in 2001. So for the State economy, this means that families, businesses, and farmers in Rhode Island will spend $52.4 million more on gasoline in June 2007 than they spent in January 2001, and $600 million more will be spent on gasoline this year than was spent in 2001, if prices remain at current levels. Rhode Island residents, farmers, and businesses are on track to pay $1.2 billion for gasoline this year. That is an extraordinary drain on the economy of my State and on States throughout this great nation.
If we have a policy that increases CAFE standards and energy efficiency and makes sensible investments in renewable fuels, we will have more funds to invest in education, health care, public works, and business development. My State, like so many States, is struggling with a budget problem, a huge State budget problem. Some of that can be attributed directly to the higher cost of fuels to run schools, to run buses, to run the infrastructure of our State. We could take that money, save it, and invest it in education, in schools, and not simply ship it overseas through major international oil companies.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that improve technologies for our homes, our businesses, and our vehicles must be the "first fuel" in the race for secure, affordable, and clean energy. Energy efficiency is the nation's greatest energy resource. We now save more energy each year from energy efficiency than we get from any single energy source, including oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. We need to use energy in a way that saves money. It is much cheaper to conserve energy and increase efficiency than to build further energy infrastructure in the country.
The Senate bill contains important provisions to support energy efficiency. First, it sets new energy benchmarks for appliances, including residential boilers, dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, and electric motors. These seem like very mundane, trivial items, but if we can make even small increases in their efficiency, it has a huge macroeconomic effect on our society in terms of demand for energy, and this legislation will help us do that and point us in that direction. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, increasing these standards will give consumers more than $12 billion in benefits, save more than 50 billion kilowatt-hours per year in electricity, or enough to power 4.8 million typical American households. The bill also strengthens energy requirements for the Federal Government. Today, the Federal Government spends more than $14 billion a year on energy. Increasing efficiency will save energy and taxpayer dollars. That is something we have to begin ourselves, leading by example at the Federal level.
The bill also increases the authorization level for the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program. The State Energy Program improves the energy efficiency of schools, hospitals, small businesses, farms, and industries to make our economy more efficient.
The Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled by improving energy efficiency of low-income housing. Weatherization can cut energy bills by 20 to 40 percent in each assisted home. This represents savings that families can use to pay for other necessities, while reducing the nation's energy demand by the equivalent of 15 million barrels of oil each year. It lowers our national demand for energy, helps individual families, which is another win-win program we must support more vigorously.
The program weatherizes approximately 100,000 homes each year. Since its inception, the program has weatherized over 5.6 million homes. Weatherization has also grown an energy efficiency industry for residential housing that, according to the Department of Energy, employs 8,000 people who work in low-income weatherization alone. This has been a great success. Again, lowering the cost to families, lowering the national demand, and putting people to work is a good formula for our economy today.
Unfortunately, the Department of Energy's fiscal year 2007 spending plan cut funding to the weatherization program, and the administration, unfortunately, has a situation in which efficiency funding has fallen alarmingly since 2002. Adjusting for inflation, funding for energy efficiency has been cut by one-third. We have to do better. In the face of soaring prices, in the face of international threats posed by oil powers, we are cutting programs that are efficient, effective, and help families, and that is not only wrong, but it is terribly wrongheaded.
A strong renewable electricity standard is also needed to diversify our fuel supply, clean our air, and better protect our consumers from electricity price shocks. I am glad to join Senator Bingaman in supporting an amendment to the bill to require a 15-percent renewable electricity standard by 2020. This amendment will promote domestically produced clean energy, reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy costs for American consumers and businesses, and create American jobs.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a 15-percent RES would save the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors $16.3 billion in electricity and natural gas costs. These savings are particularly critical for energy-intensive industries such as manufacturing. The RES will also create jobs in manufacturing. A recent study by the Apollo Alliance and the Urban Habitat found that renewable electricity creates American manufacturing, construction, and maintenance jobs. For every megawatt of solar photovoltaic electricity generated, about 22 jobs are created, which is their projection. Geothermal energy creates 10.5 jobs per megawatt, and wind energy creates 6.4 jobs per megawatt. American energy-intensive industries that are saving $5 billion through 2023 will be more competitive in the global market. Using clean, domestically produced power will also help stabilize prices, allowing businesses to more accurately budget for energy costs. This RES, the proposal of Senator Bingaman, will also lower U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 2 million tons per year by 2020.
Finally, the RES is important to our national security. In July 2006, the National Security Task Force on Energy published a report recommending several measures to improve energy security in the 21st century, including a national RES of 10 to 25 percent. Consumption of natural gas is growing at a faster rate than for any other primary energy source, and it is growing in all sectors of the economy. Families heat their homes with natural gas, businesses use natural gas to produce products, natural gas vehicles are becoming more common, and power producers generate cleaner energy with natural gas. Similar to oil, demand is growing faster than available supplies can be delivered, and the tightening in supply and demand is resulting in dramatic price volatility. One way to increase the natural gas supply in the United States is through liquefied natural gas, known as LNG. Again, however, we would do well to learn from our lessons with oil. One-third of the world's proven reserves of natural gas are in the Middle East, nearly two-fifths are in Russia and its former satellites, and Nigeria and Algeria also have significant reserves.
Political stability and terrorism are very real threats to these countries being a reliable source for natural gas. Russia is trying to create an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas, which could manipulate natural gas prices and supply, and that would be a very unfortunate development.
For over 30 years, through four different administrations, Americans have been promised that our Government would end the national security threat created by our dependence on foreign oil. As a country, we need to move in a new direction toward a clean and secure energy future. This effort must include greater investment in energy efficiency, a strong renewable electricity standard, and increased vehicle fuel economy standards. Also, as we dramatically increase biofuel production, we must ensure that it does not cause harm to the environment and public health.
Energy security starts with using the fuels we have more efficiently. Smart energy use is a resource not vulnerable to terrorism or world politics, and I think this legislation is a step forward for smart energy use. I commend Chairman Bingaman for his leadership.
I yield the floor.