U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   09/06/2006
Statement of Senator Frank Lautenberg
Oversight on Federal Renewable Fuels Programs

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.

My guess is that we’ll be here for about two hours. In that time, Americans will pump more than 33 million gallons of gas into their cars. Those cars and trucks will cough pollutants into the air that will create smog, give people asthma attacks and contribute to global warming. And we all pay for those new pollutants – in higher health care premiums and greater ruin to our natural world.

People most often think about energy in terms of their wallet – which they should. The average price for a gallon of gas is $2.85, which forces workers to choose between filling their tanks and paying their bills. But we also need to think about energy in terms of our health, our environment and our security.

To address these challenges, we need clean, alternative fuels to power our cars and trucks. Our objective isn’t just to save Americans money and improve their security by using less foreign oil, but to save our environment by belching fewer greenhouse gases and other pollutants into our air.

We won’t find a single fuel to work in every region, for every engine and abundant enough to cover all of our needs. But with our commitment, adequate investment and the right technology, we can develop the best and cleanest options quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

I believe we should build ethanol into the foundation of our alternative fuels portfolio – and we should move beyond corn-based options towards cleaner and more efficient cellulosic options. But also I believe we should support research, development and funding for other fuels, like biodiesel and p-series fuels. Developed by researchers at New Jersey’s Princeton University, p-series fuels are mostly renewable, non-petroleum and can help to replace gasoline.

As we’re likely to hear today, the technology we need to create and deploy cellulosic ethanol and other fuels are several years away. And even if we had the technology at-hand, deploying it won’t be enough to end America’s dependence on oil.

While we develop new fuels, we must improve fuel efficiency standards for our cars and trucks – and we must do this now. We also need to promote mass transit, from bus to subway, to train and trolley, choices that get gas-burning, pollution-creating cars off the streets. For every mile traveled, public transportation uses about one half of the fuel consumed by automobiles, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Last year’s energy bill did include some provisions to advance alternative fuels, like fuel standards and tax incentives for ethanol and biodiesel development. But it also—and unfortunately—continues the Bush Administration’s backwards policies of billions in subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry and other fossil fuel sectors. At the same time, they’ve provided little leadership on fuel efficiency standards. They’ve failed to provide rail and other mass transit with sufficient funds. And their environmental record hurts our natural world more than helps it.

Brazil used to be a lot like America – reliant on foreign crude. But then Brazil turned sugar, one of its biggest crops, into ethanol. The fuel, either pure or mixed with gas, now accounts for a third of what goes into Brazilian gas tanks, according to the New York Times. We can learn a lot from what our South American neighbors have already done. Sugar may not be our answer. But alternative fuels, increased fuel efficiency and better transit options are.

I look forward to hearing from today’s panel about the progress we’ve made in the last year. Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for holding this hearing.