WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW), today commented on the Democrats rejection of the Inhofe Gas PRICE Act Amendment (1505) to the energy bill.
"Passage of my amendment, the Gas PRICE Act, would have gone a long way in decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil and help bring down prices at the pump," Senator Inhofe said. "Unfortunately, Democrats chose to play politics with the pocket books of American consumers and rejected this common sense amendment.
"Today, the Democrats rejected an amendment that would have significantly helped reduce the cost of gas at the pump -- an issue that is sure to dominate in the 2008 presidential election. Americans are paying more at the pump today because we do not have the domestic capacity to produce domestic fuels consumers demand. The American public is starving for affordable energy and it appears the Democrats' only answer is to tell them to go on a diet. It is imperative for the national security of this country that we increase production at home. Despite the rhetoric by some Democratic leaders about energy independence, they continue to oppose measures that would address key factors in helping America achieve that goal. This will come back to haunt the Democrats as a major issue in 2008.
"My home state of Oklahoma has long been a leader in oil and gas supply, and today it is also a leader in innovating and providing transportation fuels for the future. Passage of my amendment would have promoted building of coal-to-liquids and commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities in Oklahoma and across the country."
The Gas PRICE Act which is designed to ease America’s soaring gas prices, address true energy independence and increase refinery capacity, was first introduced on May 24, 2007 by Senator Inhofe. The Gas Price Act would improve the permitting process for the expansion of existing and construction of new domestic fuels facilities, as well as encourage and fund the development of future fuels including coal-to-liquids and cellulosic biomass ethanol. In addition, the Act would provide for a more stable and certain regulatory environment and it would have numerous economic benefits including locating refineries in distressed communities.
For months the majority has talked about making the United States energy independent.
Let me be very clear – I agree with that goal.
My conviction toward that goal is the reason that we are offering this amendment today.
As it has been stated several times, the US must not rely on unstable parts of the world for its energy. Rather, it is imperative for the national security of this country that we increase production at home.
If my colleagues do not want to increase domestic production to meet their constituents’ demand, then they are for importing more from the rest of the world.
According to this chart from the Energy Information Administration, the rest of the world is a very dangerous place. My colleagues who are inclined to vote against this amendment should take a look at who they are voting with.
Improving domestic energy security means increasing the production of clean fuels that consumers demand and do so without sacrificing environmental laws and regulations.
This amendment does just that. It establishes a state Governor opt-in, preserves the rights of local governments, and safeguards environmental laws and regulations by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to work with states in accordance with state permitting.
Yesterday, the junior Senator from California, the Chairman of the Environment Committee spoke in opposition to a bill unrelated to the one we are about to vote on.
Even more surprising, she spoke in favor of the underlying bill – a bill that establishes a fuels program outside of the Clean Air Act and one that is no longer regulated by the Environment Protection Agency.
If we are really going to improve energy security, then we have to plan for the energy needs of the future by developing and encouraging new and even cleaner transportation fuels.
The two most promising technologies to do just that are coal-to-liquid syn-fuels and cellulosic ethanol.
As I have mentioned several times before, I am proud that my state of Oklahoma is a leader in developing bioenery crops to use in cellulosic ethanol production.
This bill includes several provisions to develop a sustainable cellulosic industry. Yesterday, I received a letter supporting our amendment from California-based, Ceres – a leader in cellulosic technology.
The letter concludes, "we believe this effort to be good for the cellulosic biofuels industry as are your provisions to provide enhanced economic development assistance for domestic fuels facilities, including cellulosic biomass ethanol facilities."
A diverse group of interests have called to develop coal-to-liquids, from the Department of Defense for national security reasons to Montana’s Governor Schweitzer for more parochial and environmental reasons.
In his editorial to the New York Times titled, "The Other Black Gold" Governor Schweitzer stated, "We are tired of paying $3 a gallon for gas, tired of watching third-world nations overtake us in energy innovation, and tired of supporting the kind of tyrants that young Americans have spent two centuries fighting and dying to defeat."
I agree with Montana’s Democratic Governor. We should be producing more fuel at home – it’s good for security, it’s good for jobs, and it’s good for consumers. Yet, Governor Schweitzer also correctly points out that it can be good for the environment. He states, "Synfuels" have remarkable properties: they are high-performing substances that run in existing engines without any technical modifications, and they burn much more cleanly than conventional fuels."
Noting those observations, we included a provision to require the EPA to demonstrate using these syn-fuels as an emissions control strategy. Initial tests are encouraging, indeed.
What this amendment does not do is hand out money to corporations of any kind.
In fact, the only grant provision in the bill only applies to Indian tribes or BRAC communities who consider siting coal-to-liquids or cellulosic ethanol facilities on their land.
I hope that you will join me in taking a modest, but critical step toward improving domestic energy security. You are about to vote for an amendment that can move us closer to that goal.
The time for declarations is over. Now is the time to act
Just think if the American colonies declared independence but never went to war.