WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke today at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, outlining Democrats’ energy goals for the 110th Congress. Sen. Reid discussed the upcoming Senate debate on S.1419, which would protect consumers from price-gouging, strengthen the economy, increase energy efficiency, develop cleaner alternative fuels and enhance the electricity grid.The following are Reid’s prepared remarks:
“Thank you, Carol Browner. And thank you, Center for American Progress Action Fund, for inviting me here to talk about one of the great challenges of our time. CAP is a think tank, but CAP is really about putting ideas into action, and that is exactly what we need to start doing when it comes to our national energy policy.
“In 1931, two great Americans met to discuss the major innovation of that day – the automobile. During that meeting, Thomas Edison had some advice for Henry Ford, whose cars were driving up demand for gasoline.
“Edison told Ford, ‘I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.’
“Now, 76 years later, America consumes 21 million barrels of oil every single day. Think about that for a minute: 21 million barrels. That’s enough oil to fill a pool that’s 10 feet deep and the length of 200 football fields. Or a pool that’s 11 miles long.
“Twenty-one million barrels, every single day. And most of it comes from unstable regions of the world. Our addiction to oil has grown into a three-pronged crisis: Threatening our economy, threatening our national security and threatening our environment.
“But as this crisis grows worse, it’s nothing but business as usual from President Bush. Maybe this President thinks it’s fine that working families are busting their budgets just to pay for gasoline and heat. But we don’t. Maybe this President thinks it’s fine to let unstable countries dictate our foreign policy – because they hold the oil that we can’t live without. But we don’t. Maybe this President thinks it’s fine to let our children and grandchildren face the devastating consequences of our climate crisis – because he didn’t have the foresight to turn the tide. But we don’t. And maybe this President thinks it’s fine to invite oil companies to write national energy policy at secret White House meetings. But we don’t.
“He may be fine with that approach to energy. But I’m not. Democrats are not. And neither are the American people.
“At the G8 Summit last week, President Bush’s so-called ‘bold’ approach to global warming was to give the issue ‘serious consideration’ in the future. Or, in other words, ignore it. The time for more meetings and blue-ribbon panels is long past. It is time for action.
“Time for bold steps and big ideas. Time for innovation. We’re not getting it from the White House, but that won’t stop us because innovation is exactly what Americans do best.
“The Democratic energy plan is all about harnessing power: The clean, renewable power that exists literally all around us – and the power of ingenuity that we have always called upon to solve our toughest problems that exist literally all around us as well.
“Our starting point is a bill we will begin debating this week. Our bill promotes energy efficiency and drives investment in clean, alternative fuels. It sets new green standards for federal buildings and protects consumers by punishing price gougers. After six and a half years of the Bush presidency, our bill puts the common good ahead of corporate greed.
“On the President’s watch, the cost of gas and home heating has doubled. Every American is feeling that pain, with less to save for retirement, college, or health care. And no surprise, working families are getting hit the hardest.
“Democrats in Congress just enacted an increase in the minimum wage that is 10 years overdue. I’m proud we did that. But we couldn’t possibly raise the minimum wage high enough to keep up with these energy prices.
“When you’re paying $3.30 per gallon for your daily commute, you’ve already spent a good portion of your paycheck by the time you get to work. Yet while the American people are forced to dig deeper, big oil is digging deeper into our pockets. They’re bringing in record profits. The $400 million golden parachute given to the former CEO of Exxon is just one example.
“There is nothing wrong with companies making money. But there is everything wrong with manipulating energy supplies to keep prices artificially high. There’s everything wrong with neglecting to reinvest a fair portion of those record profits in refinery capacity to increase supply. And there’s everything wrong with refusing to seek or promote cleaner alternatives that could create jobs here in America and clean up the environment.
“This Democratic Congress will not hesitate to take action when energy companies gouge the American people.
“But this energy crisis is certainly not limited to our shores. Last year, Americans sent $300 billion to buy oil from countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Our relationship with many of these countries is shaky at best.
“And it’s a safe bet that some of our $300 billion found their way to the hands of people and groups that seek to do us harm. Our oil addiction gives economic, military and political leverage to these countries at a time when we need every possible chip to address the threats they present.
“When the President of Venezuela calls our country a menace and constantly attacks our way of life, shouldn’t we be able to tell him to keep his oil? Right now, we can’t – and we don’t. Because we need that oil – and that ties our hands. If that’s not the sign of a dangerous addiction, I don’t know what is.
“Yet for all of President Bush’s tough talk about fighting the global war on terror, he has been dangerously silent about the role that oil plays in our national security. And with his foreign policy blunders fueling the flames of instability in the Middle East every day, our need for clean and sustainable energy right here at home couldn’t be clearer every day.
“The third wobbly leg of our energy crisis affects us both at home and throughout the world. No reasonable person continues to doubt that global warming is real and that humans are in large part responsible. But it took President Bush 6 ½ years to even utter the words ‘global warming.’
“The best scientists in the world are telling us we only have 10 to 15 years to begin to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. That means starting now. Not 2012 or later, as the President suggests. But right now.
“Countries across the globe have shown that they are up to that challenge. Major corporations here in America are signing on, as are many state governments. They are facing reality – and finding creative ways to turn it into opportunity.
“Science has been ignored on the federal level for too long. But that time is over. As I said, this week the Senate will debate our energy bill. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’
“Our bill takes several steps: For the first time in 30 years, it raises CAFE standards for new cars and trucks – to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, with another 4 percent improvement every year thereafter. I know that the auto industry is still wavering on this issue. I met with the CEOs of the big three automakers last week, and here is what I told them: The debate on raising CAFE standards should be over. It will happen. And perhaps if they had joined us instead of fighting us these last 20 years, they might not be in the financial mess they’re in today.
“But now is their chance to do the right thing – both for their bottom line and for the American people. And if President Bush is truly serious about raising CAFE – he’ll help us pass this bill.
“The next part of our bill reduces crude oil consumption by more than 10 percent over the next 15 years by producing more renewable fuels right here on American farms, fields and forests. When we do this, we will also create tens of thousands of new American jobs.
“Last week I passed through Palm Springs, California, and everywhere I looked I saw hundreds and hundreds of wind mills producing clean renewable energy. These windmills create hundreds of construction and hundreds of permanent jobs and produce enough electricity to power thousands of homes. That’s the kind of innovation we should be investing in everywhere.
“The next part of our bill sets new energy efficiency standards for lighting, appliances and water use, which will be regularly updated. That’s going to save half a trillion gallons of water every year.
“Because government should lead by example, our bill also dramatically improves the energy efficiency of federal buildings and vehicles, which will also save billions of your tax dollars.
“Our bill protects consumers by punishing companies that price gouge or manipulate supply to pad their profits. It provides research funds for ‘carbon capture and storage,’ a new technology that will prevent carbon emissions from existing power sources from ever polluting the air.
“And for the first time, it directs the President and his cabinet to improve diplomatic relations with our energy partners in order to give us more leverage in the global energy market.
“Altogether, our bill will save American consumers tens of billions of dollars annually, cut our oil consumption by more than four million barrels per day and reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources right away. And by the way, we might just save the planet while we’re at it.
“But as I said, this bill is just the first step. It is our roadmap, not our destination.
“Our bill funds important research, but we want to do far more. We want to start giving consumers more choices by investing in biofuels, renewable electricity, solar roofs and technologies not yet imagined.
“Thirty-five miles-per-gallon fuel standards should just be the beginning. And why do our cars need to run on fossil fuels at all? We need future generations of American cars to run on renewable fuels and electricity grown right here in America.
“Increasing energy efficiency is the single largest source of energy we can tap into without breaking a sweat. In the future, we need to build homes and office buildings that consume little or no net energy. We need to change the tax code and government regulations to reward energy efficiency, rather than energy consumption. And we need all this new energy to come from sources that you or I wouldn’t mind having in our own backyards.
“The kind of future I describe won’t be easy to achieve. But I know two things for sure: The trail will be blazed by America’s next titans of innovation, and their path will be lit by the support and investment of a determined federal government.
“We’re seeing the first part happening already. Scientists, states and venture capitalists are starting to work together. They are realizing – as countries like Japan, Germany and Brazil already know – that tremendous opportunity lies ahead.
“Those who develop the clean, safe and efficient energy of the future will reap enormous rewards. It’s time for our federal government to not just catch up, but to take the lead – and that won’t be easy.
“But as great as the challenges may seem, history tells us that we can and will succeed. In 1878 Thomas Edison perfected the light bulb, and the world was illuminated. In 1908 Henry Ford introduced the Model T, and Americans took to the roads. In 1961, President Kennedy challenged us to put a man on the moon, and eight years later, our frontiers were forever expanded.
“If we could turn darkness into light – and we did – surely today we can use that light more efficiently. If we could build an automobile that connected millions of travelers – and we did – surely today we can build one that runs on renewable power. If we could send a man to the moon and bring him home safely – and we did – surely today we can protect our own planet for generations to come.
“If anyone doubts America’s ability to meet this next great challenge, they don’t know America. Today we must return to our endless well of ingenuity and we must turn to the endless sources of renewable energy all around us. To set a new course that will keep us safe, grow our economy, and protect the planet that we call home.”