Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today. This hearing is very relevant with the skyrocketing gasoline prices that the American public is confronting.
Last week, the Commerce and Energy Committees had before us the CEOs of the major oil companies. They took no responsibility for our struggles with energy prices – shifting the blame to others – and were unwilling to make sacrifices, at a time when middle-class Americans are suffering at the gas pump.
I believe we ought to be doing more to control the price of gasoline – such as imposing a windfall profits tax and giving the FTC more authority to go after the price gougers.
I also believe we need to reduce our dependence on oil – by increasing CAFE standards, by promoting the use and further development of hybrid cars, and by strengthening our nation’s public transportation systems. This year’s highway bill, spearheaded through the Senate by Chairman Inhofe, actually contained many provisions that will benefit public transportation, and thereby reduce our consumption of oil.
In addition to those efforts, we can, as today’s witnesses will testify, reduce America’s dependence on oil by providing consumers with alternatives to gasoline when they fill up their tanks.
That is why we need to promote promising new fuels such as hydrogen. California has been a leader in this area with its Hydrogen Highway, a program that will put 50-100 hydrogen fueling stations in service throughout the state by 2010. In addition, several California transit agencies are, or soon will be, demonstrating and operating buses powered by fuel cells.
Another potential future fuel is ethanol. Although it is not ideal, and although all potential health effects are not clear, ethanol does reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, a cancer causing chemical. It can also lower smog forming emissions.
Mr. Chairman, we have the technical know-how to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The question is, do we have the political will?
I hope so. It was clear from last week’s hearing that Big Oil will do nothing to help the American people pay their energy bills and reduce their dependence on oil. Congress must.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.