John Kerry Says Energy Bill Fails Americans

Administration’s energy policy works for Saudi Arabia and big oil, but not for American people.
It’s time to tap America’s strength to control our own destiny.

Below are the remarks of Senator John Kerry made late last night during Senate debate on the energy bill. Senator Kerry’s remarks follow as prepared:

“Our nation’s energy crisis has reached historic levels. We need policy whose boldness is commensurate with that crisis. But that’s not what we’re getting. Instead, we’re getting a pork-laden lobbyist driven dream bill. It’s inexcusable.

“When you look at the outrageous gas prices leaving our families struggling to balance their checkbooks. When you look at our businesses struggling to turn a profit. When you see our children breathing air dangerously polluted by fossil fuels. When you read about rival nations streaking ahead of us in alternative energy technologies and creating high paying jobs that could have been ours. When you recognize our dependence on foreign oil has us entangled with nations who would do us harm. When you take all this into account, it’s clear this energy bill fails miserably.

“The Senate bill wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly better than this. The conference committee bill takes a huge step backward.

“The requirement that U.S. utilities generate 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is gone. The language recognizing the need to address global climate change is gone. And I don’t know how they intend to explain this one to the American people, but the requirement to reduce oil consumption by one million barrels a day is gone too.

“Instead, billions of American tax dollars go to the oil, gas, and nuclear industries, including a last minute, deal that gives another $1.5 billion to one of the most profitable companies in the world – Halliburton. Our children get weaker environmental protections and dirtier air and water. Americans get no relief at the pump, and we’re left just as dependent and probably more dependent on foreign oil.

“You don’t have to take my word for it that this energy bill fails to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The President’s own economists found that oil imports will actually increase 85% by 2025 under a proposal like this. The President’s economists also found that ‘changes to production, consumption, imports, and prices are negligible.’ It doesn’t take an expert to understand we’ve only been graced with 3% of the worlds’ oil reserves. Saudi Arabia has 65% of them. We can’t drill our way to energy independence, we have to invent our way there.

“About the only thing this energy bill invents is new ways to fatten the coffers of big energy companies. The Conference version is not even a band-aid on the energy crisis itself, and leaves us worse off in many areas.

“Look at what this bill means for the environment. By amending the Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the unregulated underground injection of chemicals during oil and gas development, clean drinking water is threatened. The oil and gas industries receive an exemption for their construction activities from compliance with Clean Water Act. The energy bill also requires an inventory of offshore oil and natural gas resources meant to pave the way for offshore drilling along America’s coastlines, including areas off Florida where drilling is banned. This energy bill should have been a net plus for the environment. Instead, we’re going backward.

“We all know there are some positive provisions in this bill. We’re doing more for ethanol and clean coal, although certainly not enough. I’m encouraged by the strong new standards and consumer protections in electricity and the fact that we finally authorized Energy Star. But the bottom line is we should be doing better than this. We shouldn’t be going backward. The energy bill provides a unique opportunity to address many challenges at once.

“If we end our dependence on foreign oil, we strengthen our national security. If we lead the world in inventing new energy technologies, we create thousands of high-paying American jobs. If we learn to tap clean sources of energy, we preserve a clean environment for our families and future generations. If we remove the burden of high gas prices, American consumers can spend elsewhere and give our economy the boost it needs.

“This energy bill comes nowhere near taking advantage of this opportunity. And we all know how difficult it is to get an Energy Bill passed. We’ve tried a number of times – and this one time we get close we can’t afford to leave good policy on the table.

“First, we have a powerful opportunity to make renewable electricity the standard in the United States. The bill should increase our electricity supply from renewables by requiring utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass facilities by 2020. The renewable portfolio standard is a simple mechanism to diversify energy resources, stabilize electricity prices, and reduce air pollution and other harmful environmental impacts of electricity generation while creating tens of thousands of new jobs in the process.

“Second, we need to help domestic auto manufacturers build the cars, trucks and SUVs of the future. There’s no doubt the market for hybrids is set to take off. Over the next three years, the number of hybrid models will increase to almost 20, and by 2012, there could possibly be more than 50 models. These are real volumes, and real value. If we don’t build them, someone else will, and they will take our market share and take our jobs. Even under a business-as-usual scenario, the global market for hybrids by one estimate will be 4.5 million units by 2013 — perhaps $65 billion in the U.S. alone in just eight years’ time. We need to put American ingenuity back to work building clean, fuel-efficient cars. And just like in World War II, we need all of America to come together, to pitch in, to help solve these problems. That’s why any energy bill we consider should include both manufacturer and consumer incentives to encourage domestic production and boost sales of efficient hybrid and advanced diesel vehicles.

“Third, Congress can no longer ignore the greatest threat to the environment: global climate change. Higher temperatures threaten dangerous consequences: drought, disease, floods, lost ecosystems. And from sweltering heat to rising seas, global warming’s effects have already begun. But solutions are in sight. We know where most heat-trapping gases come from: power plants and vehicles. And we know how to curb their emissions: modern technologies and stronger laws. We need to pass an economy-wide cap and trade bill, and at the same time we need to re-engage in the discussions already taking place in the international community.

“Fourth, to ensure that technologies capable of providing clean, secure and affordable energy become available in the timeframe and on the scale needed, we need to dramatically increase our commitment to research and development. The bill should include provisions to dramatically increase federal government funding for new energy research and development, increase incentives for private sector energy research and development, and expand investment in cooperative international R&D initiatives.

“And maybe most important of all, we need to attack this energy crisis with the intensity our nation once showed with the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program. Our competitors are showing this kind of urgency.

“A new national campaign in Japan urges replacement of older appliances with new hybrid products as part of their nationwide effort to save energy and fight global warming. In Germany, where heating is a huge drain on energy, a new law sets the standard of a ‘seven-liter house’ designed to use just seven liters of oil to heat one square meter for a year. In Singapore, air conditioning is the big drain on energy, so new codes encourage the use of heat-blocking window films and hookups to neighborhood cooling systems which chill water overnight. In Hong Kong, an ‘intelligent’ elevator system uses computers to minimize unnecessary stops.

“If these nations can reduce their dependence foreign oil and invest in advanced energy technology, then surely the United States can. And their urgency is more than justified, because this goes beyond our economy. Energy is a legitimate global security issue.

“The era when the United States, Japan and Europe comprise the bulk of the world’s demand for oil is over. Oil consumption from developing Asian nations will more than double in the next 25 years, from 15 million to 32 million barrels a day. Chinese consumption will grow from 5 million nearly 13 million barrels per day. India’s will rise from 2 to more than 5 million barrels per day. This global race for oil is potentially a devastating destabilizing force.

“Increased American energy dependence further entangles our nation in unstable regions of the world and forces us to compromise our values. In exchange for oil, we transfer wealth to people who would do us and others great harm. This is as bad for our troops as it is for gas prices. We risk being drawn into dangerous conflicts, and an already overburdened military is increasingly stretched too thin.

“In recent years U.S. forces had to help protect the pipeline in Colombia. Our military had to train indigenous forces to protect the pipeline in Georgia. We plan to spend $100 million on a special network of police officers and special forces units to guard oil facilities around the Caspian Sea, and continue to search for bases in Africa so we can protect oil facilities there. Our navy patrolled tanker routes in the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and the western Pacific.

“The reality is we have to protect the oil we depend on for our way of life. And this is a serious issue with real consequences because the unstable nature of conflict-ridden oil-producing areas challenges our economic security.

“In spring 2004, insurgents attacked an Iraqi oil platform. There was violence against oil workers in Nigeria. The result was depressed global oil output and record high gasoline prices. We were helpless to stop it.

“The most dangerous aspect of all of this is that we’re not alone. International demand for oil is heating up. At the rate we’re going the great powers of the world may resume the race to secure the remaining energy reserves. That’s an alarming scenario, but that is the course we’re on. With strong leadership we can avoid it, but we can’t do it without a balanced energy plan that ends our dependence on foreign oil.

“If anyone needs an example of how energy dependence can shortchange national security, look no farther than the War on Terror. If we assume oil miraculously drops to $30/barrel, over the next 25 years the U.S. will send over 3 trillion American dollars out of the country, much of it to regimes who don’t share our values. Today, America spends more than $200,000 per minute on foreign oil – $13 million per hour. More than $25 billion a year goes for Persian Gulf imports alone. It’s bad enough to think these dollars won’t help grow our economy. It’s worse to consider their impact on our volatile relationships with regimes like the House of Saud.

“And our dependence on foreign oil is a bad bargain in the War on Terror. In the past Hamas received almost half of its funding from Saudi Arabia. We know al Qaeda has relied on prominent Saudi Arabians for financing. Saudi Arabia sponsors clerics who promote the ideology of terror.

“The bottom line is the Administration’s energy policy works for Saudi Arabia, it works for big oil and gas companies, but it doesn’t work for the American people.

“Americans deserve better, and they certainly deserve the truth. That’s not what they’re getting when the Administration delays an EPA report slamming the fuel economy until after the bill passes, as we learned in the New York Times today. It tells you a lot about which interests this bill serves when the Administration doesn’t want people knowing the truth until after the votes are counted. And there’s no doubt the Administration and my colleagues Republican and Democrat who vote for this bill are going to sell it as some great national triumph. It’s not. This bill does a great job squeezing in a lot of pork and that’s about it.

“Washington failed the American people on this one. Whether it’s consumers at the pump, troops risking their lives to protect pipelines around the world, airlines struggling to survive, or kids breathing dirty air, everyone’s losing here. The minimal progress in this bill doesn’t come close to cutting it. And Americans will be able to judge the real world success of this energy bill every day at the pump. They won’t be fooled, and they’ll demand that we take steps to end the crisis with boldness that matches the severity of the crisis itself.

“It’s time to give America an energy policy that works for America and works for the 21st century. It’s time to tap America’s strength – our markets, our invention, our innovation and our values – to control our own destiny. We need to embrace and foster a revolution toward an energy world that benefits our environment, our economy, and most importantly our security. This energy bill doesn’t even come close.”

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