April 27, 2006
First, let me say there is nothing new to the problem we have had in this country by not having an energy policy. I can remember when Don Hodel was Secretary of Energy and later Secretary of the Interior. We had a dog-and-pony show where we went around the country during the Reagan administration and tried to talk about how serious this was--the fact that our dependence upon foreign countries, or our ability to fight a war, was not an energy problem; it was a national security problem.
We found the message didn't sell. I was critical of the Reagan administration. Later on, when the first Bush administration came along, I thought, surely, out of the oil patch he would want to have an energy policy, but he didn't either. And during the Clinton administration, he did not. When the second George Bush came into office, the first thing he did was say we are going to have an energy policy. Keep in mind that our dependency at that time, when I was active around the country with Don Hodel, was 36 to 37 percent. Now we are up to twice that. It is much worse now than it was before.
We are in the middle of our second gulf war and people should realize what a threat this is. I chair the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has most of the jurisdiction over many energy issues, and certainly the air issues. I remember making every effort to get drilling on ANWR. The distinguished President pro tempore has spent his life trying to get production in the northern part of his State. It is something that would resolve the problem.
Yesterday, on this floor, one of the Senators on the Democratic side said it would take 10 years before we would see any of that production. I don't believe that is true. But if it were true, I remind my colleagues that on November 20, 1995, we passed in both Chambers drilling in ANWR, and President Clinton vetoed the bill. We would have it today. We would not be having this problem.
I suggest also that there is one other facet that has not been talked about enough, and that is, we could have all the production, all the exploration in the world, but if we don't have the refining capacity, it doesn't do any good.
We were at 100 percent refining capacity even before Katrina. This is a serious problem. In our committee, we marked up a refinery bill, a very sophisticated bill, very moderate. It would allow those cities where they had closed military bases to use those closed military bases along with EDA grants to establish refineries. It is something that would enhance our refinery capacity and give us new refineries, and it was killed right down party lines. Every Democrat voted against it.
I will read what one of the papers, the Topeka Capital Journal, said: “Politics played a crucial role in Democrat opposition. If gas prices are high next year”-- this is next year now—“the GOP will be blamed. ..... even though it is the Democrats who are responsible for it.”
So we have those problems that are looming at the same time.
I will say this: Democrats did offer an alternative when they killed the refinery bill. All eight Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, the committee I chair, voted in favor of an alternative that would put the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of siting, constructing, and operating oil facilities. In other words, socializing that particular sector of our economy, which is something they apparently believe Government can operate better than people.
It is not true. When we had the LIHEAP program, I had an amendment that would have improved the permitting process for ethanol plants, as well as oil refineries and coal liquid facilities. Again, killed right down party lines.
I guess what I am saying is, we go through this and we see what is happening, and it is always down party lines when we try to enhance our ability to have natural gas. Ask farmers anywhere in America what is causing the cost of fertilizer to go up. It is a shortage of natural gas.
At the same time, we had an opportunity to do something in Massachusetts. Two Congressmen from Massachusetts, Frank and McGovern, put a provision in the Transportation bill that blocks the construction of an already-approved liquefied natural gas facility.
What I am saying is--and I know I am down to 1 minute, Mr. President--it doesn't seem to matter to the Democrats whether we are trying to do something with fossil fuels, trying to do something with oil and gas, trying to do something with clean coal technology, or trying to do something with nuclear energy. It always is killed right down party lines. Now the crisis is here, and we are going to have to face it.
I yield the floor.