Menendez Pushes Measure Increasing Renewable Energy, Conservation

Menendez Pushes Measure Increasing Renewable Energy, Conservation

Republicans stonewall, side with oil and gas industry over American families

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today joined Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to offer an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill to help America kick its oil addiction and put our country on a path to real energy security. The amendment would infuse critically-needed resources into next-generation technologies including cellulosic fuels, alternative fuel, hybrid and flex-fuel automobiles for the federal fleet, and for low-emission, clean energy electricity generation systems at U.S. defense facilities. Republican Senators used parliamentary maneuvering to obstruct Menendezs measure from coming to a vote.

The full text of Senator Menendezs statement to the Senate follows.

Mr. President, I rise to discuss an amendment, filed by Senator Nelson of Florida and myself, and joined by Senators Lieberman, Lautenberg, Kerry, and our distinguished minority leader, that will provide serious resources, not just lip service, to help us kick the oil addiction habit and put this country on a long-term path to real energy security. At a time when American families are spending exorbitant amounts to fill their cars and heat their homes, when this nation is using ever increasing quantities of foreign oil, when our coastal communities are threatened by rising sea levels caused by global warming, we need a new approach. And for the sake of our economy, our security, and our environment, we need to act now.

For years, this administration has promoted one course more drilling. Instead of making the necessary and timely investments needed to push this country in the direction of a sustainable energy policy, the administration has beat one drum over and over again drill, drill, drill. Drill in the Arctic, drill in our wilderness, drill off our beaches. This is not the way to kick our oil habit. The president claims to have seen the light, and now touts the virtues of efficiency and the importance of biofuels and renewable energy. But he proposes to fund the Department of Energys Efficiency and Renewables programs at the same level they were at in 2001. And he refuses to endorse higher mileage standards for automobiles, which are the same now as they were twenty years ago.

Mr. President, our energy situation has reached a critical point, and it is truly an emergency. Secretary of Energy Bodman even admitted on Sunday that we are facing a crisis. Gas prices are nearing their record highs, rising 41 cents in the past month and over 54 cents since the Energy Bill was signed into law last August. Many of the countries that we depend on for our oil are politically unstable or have unfriendly regimes. The Iranian situation, in particular, threatens to drive oil prices far higher. We can not allow our economy to be continually held hostage by the whims of OPEC.

And this is not just about economic security. It is about national security. As former CIA Director James Woolsey testified before the Energy Committee, the hundreds of billions of dollars we send abroad each year to feed our oil addiction help to fund the very organizations that preach hatred for America.

We should have taken serious action years ago, but the administration buried its head in the sand. Mr. President, the American people can afford to wait no longer. The Nelson-Menendez amendment provides the immediate funding we need to allow us to take control of our destiny and create a brighter, cleaner, and safer energy future for America. It provides 3 billion dollars for a wide range of efficiency, security, and research and development programs programs the President talks about in glowing terms but doesnt propose to actually fund.

His 2007 budget barely includes half of the authorized funding for renewable energy research, and provides less than 2% for the incentives needed to encourage the installation and use of renewable energy. Our amendment would add 150 million dollars for renewable energy research and development in the Department of Energy, over 100 million in renewable energy rebates for homes and small businesses, and 200 million for the Department of Defense to do its part to meet the renewable energy goals set out by the President and in the law.

The administration has tried for years to portray efficiency as a vice, something thats totally inconsistent with the American way of life. Recently theyve changed their tune, but not their actions. The presidents budget actually cut energy efficiency programs by 13 percent. That simply astounds me. Few things are more effective for curbing our addiction to oil than becoming more energy efficient. A 2001 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that a 7 billion dollar investment in DOE energy efficiency programs had returned 30 billion in benefits. Thats better than 4 to 1. But the president cut efficiency programs by over a hundred million dollars. The weatherization program, which helps low-income families reduce fuel use and lower their energy bills, has been shown to provide well over three dollars of benefit for each one dollar spent. But the president proposed to slash that by nearly 30%.

Our amendment recognizes the tremendous benefit we as a nation receive by becoming more efficient, and provides an additional 300 million for energy efficiency programs, and another 225 million for weatherization grants.

If we want to make a serious dent in our use of oil, however, we need to look at the transportation sector, which is responsible for two-thirds of our national oil consumption. While everyone seems to agree on the need to get more flex fuel and alternative-fuel vehicles on the road, and the urgency of producing cellulosic ethanol, the administration simply does not make the real financial commitment. But this amendment does. It provides 150 million for vehicle research programs, 350 million for the clean cities program, 200 million for biomass research and development and 250 million in production incentives for cellulosic fuels.

There are also provisions in this amendment to increase the reliability of our electricity grid, encourage the federal government to purchase alternative fuel vehicles, help improve the efficiency of aircraft, and much more. It is a large amendment because this is a large problem. Our economy, our environment, and our national security are all too important to be left to the best interests of OPEC and the giant oil companies. Skyrocketing gas prices have been a wake-up call for everyone, but even if we succeed in providing relief for American consumers, as my amendment last week would have done, we can not afford to go back to sleep on this issue. The American people expect us to get serious about our energy future, and they expect us to do it immediately. If we dont act now, when do we act? I urge my colleagues to join us and support the Nelson-Menendez amendment for energy security and independence, and embrace a real plan to get us to a clean and secure energy future.