Benjamin L. Cardin
For the sake of our security, economy and environment, America needs an energy policy that is independent from foreign energy sources and weans America off of fossil fuels.
America’s current energy policy is simply unsustainable.
We all know the security issues: The U.S. imports over 65 percent of our oil from foreign countries – many of them openly hostile to our country. American consumers are literally financing extreme anti-American groups that we fund through our oil dollars. Our petroleum habit creates national security risks and causes long-term energy price instability for American consumers - a price or supply change by OPEC can directly affect our economy. We are currently spending billions of dollars a year to subsidize oil companies, while their profits have increased dramatically – Exxon Mobil is on track to break its own record-breaking $36 billion dollar profits from 2005.
America’s energy policy has also had a serious impact on our economy: Five years ago, the average American family spent $3,300 on gasoline, home heating, and electricity. Average U.S. households paid nearly $5,000 to power their homes and vehicles in 2006 — 32 percent greater than just two years ago. Households with incomes under $15,000 – about one-fifth of all households – spent about one-tenth of their income in 2006 on gasoline. Leading economists noted after the release of monthly economic reports in September, 2006, that energy prices are rising much faster than wages and becoming "increasingly difficult for consumers to absorb."
While each of these is important, this hearing is about global warming, and about how our energy policy can deliver reductions in global warming.
I introduced legislation in the 109th Congress with many rigorous goals to get us on the right path, but there are many ways to accomplish these goals. At its heart, America’s energy policy needs to address energy independence, fossil fuel reduction, and global warming.
It is reasonable to establish the goal of meeting 90 percent of our energy needs from domestic sources by 2017. America imports 30 percent of its overall energy needs, but imports over 13 million barrels of oil each day – more than 65 percent of U.S. oil needs. The majority of our imported energy is oil, and the largest consumption of oil in the U.S. is for transportation. 84 percent of U.S. imported energy in 2005 was petroleum, representing 28.9 quadrillion Btu. U.S. transportation consumption accounted for 28.1 quadrillion Btu, mostly in petroleum.
It is reasonable to establish a goal to meet 90 percent of our energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. Fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are America's primary source of energy, making up over 70 percent of our electricity generation. Fossil fuel-fired electricity generation is the single greatest source of air pollution in the United States, and power plants are the leading U.S. source of carbon dioxide emissions—a primary contributor to global warming. U.S. conventional oil production peaked in 1970, and only produces enough oil to meet 35 percent of its oil needs. We have an abundance of coal, but we lack the technological ability to use coal in an environmentally secure manner.
It is reasonable to establish the goal of reducing our emissions of global warming-causing greenhouse gasses by 26 percent by 2030. With only 5 percent of the world’s population and 6 percent of the world’s land area, the U.S. is the number one emitter of carbon dioxide in both tons and in per capita emissions, in the world. Greenhouse gasses are emitted primarily by the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests. Carbon dioxide, along with other heat-trapping gasses, remain in the atmosphere for decades or even centuries, and have been melting ice, making Earth’s water warmer, and increasing extreme weather events, such as higher-intensity tropical storms. By 2012, cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions required under the Kyoto Protocol will be swamped by emissions from new coal-fired plants built in China, India, and the United States. These 3 countries are expected to emit an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The Discovery Channel has produced a couple of stellar programs outlining our global warming problems: Addiction to Oil – with Tom Friedman, and Global Warming – with Tom Brokaw. I’d like to introduce these programs into the record at this point.
Global warming poses an especially serious threat to my own state of Maryland, with a large part of our state consisting of low-lying coastal areas that would be inundated if global temperatures keep rising. Global warming pollution in Maryland is up by 55 percent from 1960.
More than 12 percent of land in Maryland is designated under the National Flood Insurance Program as a Special Flood Hazard Area.
An estimated 68,000 homes and buildings are located within the floodplain in Maryland. These structures represent nearly $8 billion in assessed value.
According to 2005 report of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency Maryland is the 3rd most vulnerable state to flooding and has the 5th longest evacuation times during a tropical storm event.
Tide gauge records for the last century show that the rate of sea level rise in Maryland is nearly twice the global average. Studies indicate that this rate is accelerating and may increase to two or three feet along Maryland’s shores by the year 2100.
The effects are already evident: about a third of the marshes at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s eastern shore have been lost to sea level rise over the past 70 years. Smith Island, the only inhabited island community in Maryland and the subject of a recent documentary on global warming, has lost 30 percent of its land mass to sea level rise since 1850. Lloyds of London is reportedly the only company that will insure homes on Smith Island and the premiums and high deductibles are unaffordable to most residents. Allstate Insurance Corp., one of our largest insurers, recently announced that it will stop writing new homeowners’ policies in coastal areas of the state, citing concerns that a warmer Atlantic Ocean will lead to more and stronger hurricanes hitting the Northeast. Hurricane Isabel in 2003, which was a modest hurricane, underscored how vulnerable Bay communities are to coastal flooding from storm surge. Maryland’s premier beach resort – Ocean City – representing more than $4 billion in public and private investment – remains especially vulnerable to sea level rise unless our beach renourishment projects are continued and expanded. The combination of sea-level rise and warmer temperatures as well as increased salinity levels could have tremendous ecological impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.
Clearly sea level rise will have devastating effects not only on the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who live in low lying areas but on our economy, our environment and our quality of life.
Our first goal must be to conserve energy. This conservation effort needs to start w/ transportation. The U.S. must increase Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFÉ) standards significantly over the next ten years. The Ford Model T got 25 mpg, yet our current CAFÉ standard calls for 27.5 mpg for passenger cars, and 21.6 mpg for light trucks. "In 1981, the last time gas prices breached $3, adjusted for inflation, the average car got 21 miles to the gallon. Jump ahead 24 years, a period when there have been huge advances in automotive fuel efficiency, and the average passenger vehicle on the road gets...21 miles to the gallon." – CNN 9/14/05
Under federal fuel-economy standards, automakers equip new vehicles with tires that have a lower rolling resistance, which leads to higher fuel efficiency. By requiring replacement tires to be as efficient as new car tires, we could rapidly begin gasoline savings, and save more than 7 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years. These changes would particularly aid lower-income drivers, who are more likely to drive used cars with replacement tires.
There is no one solution to our energy problems, other conservation examples include increasing Energy Star funding, and adding solar water heaters to the list of products that wear the Energy Star label. The Energy Star program brings consumers energy efficient choices in appliances, light bulbs, and other goods. This vital program helped Americans save enough energy in 2005 to prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 23 million cars – while saving $12 billion on utility bills.
According to the DOE, commercial buildings account for 35 percent of America’s electricity consumption. An upfront investment of 2 percent in green building design, on average, results in life cycle savings of ten times that upfront investment. I would increase the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings deduction – to encourage business owners to look forward and plan ahead by using buildings that will save money and electricity over the long run.
Transportation costs accounted for 58 percent of federal energy consumption in FY 2002. The federal government would decrease energy costs by both requiring that the federal fleet exceed CAFÉ standards and requiring that at least 10 percent of the motor vehicles purchased by an Executive agency in any fiscal year will be high-efficiency vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles.
America’s energy policy must encourage energy efficient communities and behavior. Congress should encourage smart growth through funding transit-oriented development corridors with upgrades in transit facilities, bicycle transportation facilities, and pedestrian walkways.
America should promote energy efficiency in all communities by increasing funding for weatherization assistance. In the 27 years since its founding, DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program has served over 5.3 million low-income families. Low-income families spend an average of 14 percent of their annual income on energy costs, while other households spend only 3.5 percent. Weatherization reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one ton per weatherized home, and decreases U.S. energy consumption by the equivalent of 15 million barrels of oil every year.
Congress should create federal tax incentives for employers who provide telecommuting to their employees. Telecommuting has successfully reduced both transportation and energy use, and the EPA reports that if just 10 percent of the nation's workforce telecommuted just one day a week, Americans would conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel per week.
The U.S. needs to enact mandatory, tradable emissions caps. Not only is this a policy that enjoys the broad support of businesses, environmental groups, scientists, and Members of Congress, it is the right thing to do for our Country’s future, and for the well-being of our children and grandchildren.
America must make renewable energy commercially viable, and make the up-front investment in renewable energy infrastructure that will bring renewable energy to the marketplace.
The U.S. needs a federal renewable portfolio standard to ensure consumer access to renewable energy, by requiring electric utilities to get a larger portion of the energy they provide to Americans from renewable sources.
America needs to find new ways to move renewable energy – by creating electricity transmission lines designed to carry electricity from renewable sources.
Congress must make the renewable energy production credit permanent, to provide long-term incentives to increase private infrastructural investment in the production of renewable energy.
America has lagged behind Europe in using biodiesel as one way to reduce our use of oil. Maryland Biodiesel, owned by James and Virginia Warren, is the only plant of its kind in the state, and will use plant and animal oil byproducts that are currently thrown away. More than 600,000 cars capable of running on alternative fuels have been produced each year since 2000. The U.S. must dramatically increase the federal commitment to alternative fuels and vehicle technology programs, and increase the use of alternative fuels in federal and state fleets, by developing biofuel plants in every region of the country, and speeding development of standards that are needed to promote alternative fuels use.
We need to increase the renewable energy use and energy efficiency of the Federal Government – the Federal government should lead the country in energy efficiency. All new federal buildings should be required to live up to green building LEED (Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design) standards, set by the United States Green Building Council. Energy used in buildings in FY 2002 accounted for 38 percent of the total Federal energy bill. Total Federal buildings and facilities energy expenditures in FY 2002 were $3.73 billion. This federal investment in green building will save the treasury millions while reducing overall electricity consumption.
The federal government should ensure that at least 20 percent of the electricity consumed by non-defense activities of the government will be generated from renewable sources or zero-emission fossil fuel energy sources by 2017.
America should establish a program of grants, low-interest loans, and loan guarantees for the commercialization of new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
The U.S. must dramatically increase federal energy research and development commitments.
Increasing America’s energy research dollars will help bring technologies that hold great promise but are not feasible today – such as hydrogen powered automobiles, cellulosic ethanol, and nuclear fusion energy – to the marketplace faster.
Congress should implement the changes suggested by the National Academy of Sciences’ Report, Rising Above a Gathering Storm – to ensure U.S. competitiveness in research and scientific development, including marked increases in The Department of Energy’s R&D funding.
Finally, we should create a Blue Ribbon Energy Commission, which would meet every 2 years starting in 2008, to evaluate our progress in efforts to become energy independent and the impact of provisions of new policy, and to recommend additional changes to be made in reports to Congress – so that our energy policy remains focused on our 3 goals of energy independence, fossil fuel independence, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
For the sake of our security, economy and environment, America needs a comprehensive energy policy that is independent of foreign sources and weans America off of fossil fuels.