Senator Cornyn Statement on Climate Change and Energy Prices
June 3, 2008
Posted By Marc Morano – 1:05 PM ET – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov
Floor Statement of Senator Cornyn: Climate Change and Energy PricesTuesday, June 3, 2008
Mr. President, I heard the distinguished Majority Leader criticize the Republicans for wanting to have a debate on this piece of legislation. Frankly, we would be remiss in our duties if we didn't discuss this important piece of legislation. as complex and difficult a topic as it is, and frankly, ask questions that I know our constituents would ask of us were we to vote for or against this particular piece of legislation. So I, for one, would make no apologies for doing what I consider to be my duty, and I think all of us would do well to ask questions about this legislation which proposes a $6.7 trillion price tag. That's trillion, not billion, not million; but trillion. $6.7 trillion dollars.
I wonder, we talk about what Congress has been doing. Let me just mention what Congress has not been doing, what the Senate has not been doing. It's been 109 days since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was not reauthorized which hampered our ability to listen in on terrorist-to-terrorist communications. We spent 560 days since American farmers and businesses have been disadvantaged by not taking up the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. My state alone, it's roughly $2.3 billion a year. But my producers, my farmers, my manufacturers are disadvantaged by tariffs on those goods when they're imported into Colombia event though Columbian goods bear zero tarriffs when they come into the country. We ought to fix that. It's been 560 days since that condition has existed. 705 days that some judicial nominees have been waiting for a vote. And 771 days since Speaker Pelosi, when campaigning before the 2006 election, said that if elected Democrats would deliver a commonsense solution to the price of gasoline and the pain that consumers were feeling at the pump. That was 771 days ago, and yet, there's been no proposal by our friends in the Majority to actually come up with a commonsense solution to help ease the pain at the pump.
Instead, we have a bill which, while I don't question the motivation for the bill, since we're all concerned about the environment, I do think that it's important that we ask questions about a bill that carries such a high price tag and which will have the impact of actually increasing the costs of energy, gasoline and electricity alike, rather than reducing it. So, I must say that last week, like all the rest of my colleagues, I went back home and had a chance to visit with a number of my constituents. And, of course, high gasoline prices was the number-one issue on their mind. Because even though my state is doing relatively well compared to the rest of the country with about 4.1% unemployment rate, we've seen some softening in the housing market, but generally speaking, my state is prospering, and we're grateful for that. But people that do have jobs, and they feel like they're doing pretty well otherwise, they're still feeling their paycheck shrink as a result of rising energy costs. And I'm wondering why we're now on a piece of legislation which will, rather than reduce the cost of their gasoline or their electricity, will actually increase it. Right now the average price for a gallon of gasoline across the country is just right at $4 a gallon. $4 a gallon. And as I talked to my constituents last week around the state, they asked me, "What is Congress go to do to finally take action to lower those prices?"
Unfortunately, I had to tell them that we only got 42 votes on a provision on a bill - the Domenici amendment, which would actually have increased our use of American energy and reduce our dependency on imported oil from some of our enemies, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, President Ahmadinejad in Iran. By our inaction here in the Congress, we're actually driving up that cost because we're putting, since 1982, vast American reserves of energy out of bounds through moratorium that have been enacted on the outer continental shelf, through our unwillingness to explore and develop oil shale in the west and our unwillingness to allow the state of Alaska to develop its own energy reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So, it's easy for me to understand, seeing that disconnect between what my constituents are concerned about -- high prices of energy, including gasoline -- to come back here and be debating a bill that will drive up those costs even further, it's easy to see why more and more people feel like Congress is just totally disconnected from reality.
And Congress appears to have very little relevance to the things that concern the American people the most, and that is the family budget. I want to be clear about one thing, though. The debate about our environment is one well worth having, and of course we could all do better and should do better to be good stewards of then environment. And, yes, we must focus on conserving energy and reducing waste. But reducing our dependency on foreign oil and bringing down prices at the pump is needed too. And my fear is that this important issue is rapidly becoming just another tired political game. Because taking care of the environment is not a Republican versus Democrat issue, and it should not be about partisan politics. Haven't we learned by now that the American people are fed up with the games here in Washington and want real solutions?
Well, the Majority Leader, and yesterday the distinguished Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer, were criticizing the fact that we wanted to use some of the time today to ask questions about this important legislation, so we could educate both ourselves and our constituents about what is in this very complex piece of legislation. But I do have some questions that I hope will be answered in today's and this week's debate. First of all, how much will this bill cost? I've read estimates that this bill's price tag is somewhere in the $6.7 trillion range. And I fear that if that's correct, that this is just simply too costly of a burden to put on the American people.
And this is especially true when I believe more effective cost-effective solutions are available. I think we should balk at any piece of legislation that carries a price tag of $6.7 trillion. Perhaps I haven't been in Congress long enough to be jaded by such talk -- and I hope I never am -- but I still have trouble in grasping the enormity of a number like $1 trillion. And now we're talking about $6.7 trillion. People in Congress toss those numbers around like they're pocket change. But this is real money coming out of the budgets of real people, the American people.So I'd like to know why the $6.7 trillion -- what's the money going to be spend for and why do we have to opt for a cost in that range when there are more cost-effective solutions available? Like tax credits, like solar energy, like wind energy? Why aren't we doing more to develop our nuclear energy capacity to create electricity, which is carbon-free? Why aren't we doing that instead of spending $6.7 trillion? I'd like to know what the impact of this legislation will be on our economy and on the family budget. Already we've seen as a result of inaction by Congress over this last 771 days since our Democratic colleagues said they had a commonsense plan to reduce the price of gasoline at the pump, we've seen the average American family lose $1,400 in increased gasoline costs as a result of the rise in gasoline prices over that same period of time.
Now, some estimates are that Texas families -- my constituents -- would pay an additional $8,000 if we pass this piece of legislation. That includes, some estimates say, 145% increase in electricity costs and 147% increase in gasoline costs. That's at least $5.30 a gallon. At a time when gasoline is $3.98 a gallon, is it really true that our -- that the proponents of this legislation want to raise that to $5.30 a gallon? It seems to me we're going in the wrong direction, not the right direction. At the same time it's estimated that this legislation, if passed, would actually cause more than 300,000 Texans to lose their jobs. Overall estimates indicate that this bill could cost the economy in my state, one of the states that's actually doing very well from an economic standpoint of view, estimates indicate this bill could cost my state more than $50 billion in additional costs. We can't afford another wet blanket on our economy caused by higher taxes and more expenses coming out of the family budget and more pressure on our job creators that provide people an opportunity to put food on the table.
Another question I have, Mr. President, is if the United States Of America decides to impose this costly burden on ourselves, will China and India likewise impose the same burden on their energy industry? Of course booming industrial giants like China and India both are a billion people-plus, and we know we're increasingly in a global competition with not only India and China, but with the entire planet. And why in the world would we impose a costly piece of legislation -- $6.7 trillion -- on the American people and raise electricity costs and gasoline costs, depress the gross domestic product of this country, put people out of work if our major global competitors are simply going to get off scot-free and not likewise constrain their economy by imposing these sort of burdens on themselves?
Finally, Mr. President, I'd like to know whether this, on what basis do the proponents of this legislation believe this bill will have its intended effect? If human beings contribute to climate change, which I will not debate -- I assume we do in some way or another -- why have the targets that have been proposed, why have they been proposed? What's the science to justify those? And what if those targets are actually reached, albeit at a cost of $6.7 trillion, with rising gas and electricity costs and a depression effect on our gross domestic product, how do we know that, and where is the science that says that this bill will actually have its intended effect, particularly if China and India, our global competitors, don't participate. "The Wall Street Journal" has dubbed this legislation the most extensive government reorganization of the American economy since the 1930's. It seems to me that this is something we should debate and we should examine and we should ask questions about, so that we will know what the effect of this bill will be if it is passed.
We've already seen that Congress is not exactly omniscient when it comes to the energy area where we have subsidized corn-based ethanol as an alternative to renewable source of energy. But the fact of the matter is we found that there are unintended consequences when you use food for fuel. And how do we know that this particular bill, the Boxer climate tax bill, will not have unintended consequences? I fear it may not have the intended effect of reducing carbon emissions, and it may have some of the unintended and disastrous side effects that I've already outlined. If we're certain that this is the right approach to protecting the environment, where's the evidence? Yesterday the distinguished Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Majority Leader complained about the fact that we want to use some time today to ask these questions and get answers. We shouldn't be asked to nor should the American people be asked to accept this on faith. Don't worry, trust us. It reminds me of the most fearsome words in the English language. We're from the government and we're here to help. Well, if that's true, the American people ought to see the evidence that will justify this huge expenditure of their money, the huge increase in prices of energy, and the depressing effect on the economy. Why that's necessary and whether it will actually work as intended. Where's the evidence?
Finally I would just say, Mr. President, Senator Boxer, the distinguished chairman of the environment and public works committee said, well, if the rising costs would not be a problem, she said, because of tax offsets she's included in this bill. Thee assured us this bill contained almost $1 trillion of tax relief so that if we do see some of the increases of the energy costs in the early years, electricity, for example, we can offset that. Well, it just almost boggles the imagination, Mr. President that the primary author of this legislation, Senator Boxer, would essentially concede that there would be rising energy costs as a result of this legislation and, yet say that we ought to spend a trillion more of the taxpayers' money to provide offsets or relief.
This huge, complex bill deserves all of the scrutiny we can give it.