4/06/2011 — 

Mr. President, today, we are in the midst of another rapid increase in the price of oil and gas at the pump faced by our constituents. Rather than address this issue in a positive manner, we are once again debating an amendment whose authors believe that they have the expertise to determine that the EPA was wrong to conclude that greenhouse gases are pollutants, despite the preponderance of scientific evidence.

   The McConnell amendment disregards the advice of leading scientists, doctors, and public health experts by not only overturning EPA's scientific endangerment finding but also telling EPA that it must continue to ignore what America's science experts are telling us about the dangerous impacts of carbon pollution.

   The Supreme Court concluded in 2007 that the Clean Air Act's definition of air pollutant includes greenhouse gas emissions, rejecting the Bush administration's refusal to determine whether that pollution endangers Americans' health and welfare. The Senate should similarly reject this amendment, which would overturn that science-based decision.

   There are many far-reaching consequences of this amendment, but I want to focus my attention on how it will disrupt the broadly supported and partnership-driven fuel efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks, thereby forfeiting many hundreds of millions of barrels of oil savings, including savings for the American consumer, and potentially re-opening the debate to contentious litigation.

   This would be a major step backwards in our efforts to decrease the cost of fueling at the pump. The price of gas weighs heavily on the budgets of American families, currently $3.56 per gallon in Rhode Island and an increase of 27 percent over the same time last year. The cheapest gallon of gas is the one that you do not need to buy, which is why I have long championed improved fuel efficiency.

   Last year's vehicle efficiency and emissions standards will save consumers more than $3,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of new vehicles. Increasing the standard to 60 mpg by 2025 could result in $7,000 in savings. Our competitors in China and Europe already have higher efficiency standards. It is time that we create manufacturing jobs here in America by producing cars that save consumers money at the pump. I have been heartened to see our auto industry begin to do just that, but we need to go further.

   The McConnell amendment would accomplish the opposite by creating business uncertainty for our existing standards and stopping the development of future efforts to save more oil and money.

   This amendment is part of the ongoing concern over how we will reduce carbon pollution, and there will always be the need to balance the needs for business development and environmental protection. But it does not have to be an either or position. A healthy environment is important for a strong economy, and the 40-year track record of the Clean Air Act has shown us that the two can work well in concert.

   We need to define our energy future, one that ends our dependence on foreign oil and confronts the challenges of climate change. This amendment accomplishes neither and I urge my colleagues to reject it.