Senate Democrats

Reid: As Oil Prices Increase, So Does Urgency With Which We Must Enact Energy Reforms

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

“Last night, the low temperature in many parts of the East Coast and throughout the country fell into the 30s.  That meant that this morning, millions of Americans reached into their closets for scarves, flannel suits and heavy coats for the first time this season.  Even in Nevada, where the day’s highs can still reach the 90s this time of year, we are now beginning to feel an overnight chill in the air.  The low temperatures from Ely to Elko to Reno will be dropping below the freezing mark by the end of the week.

“As the temperature falls, families from coast to coast begin to think about the cost of heating our homes for the winter – a cost that has risen steadily during the Bush Administration.  This morning, as our thoughts turned toward the cold months ahead, the price of oil rose to a record $93 per barrel.  If we don’t turn the tide by reducing our dependence on oil and foreign energy sources, every American will be forced to pay more and more to heat our homes and fill up our gas tanks.

“America is addicted to oil.  I have said it before.  President Bush has said it as well.  We consume 21 million barrels every day.  That’s almost three gallons for every man, woman and child in our country – enough oil to fill a swimming pool 10 feet deep, the length and width of 200 football fields. 

“We consume oil at twice the rate of other industrialized nations – and our consumption only continues to rise.  This oil addiction has become a three-pronged crisis: threatening our economy, threatening our national security and threatening our environment.

“Just a 10 percent increase in oil prices costs an estimated 150,000 American jobs and more than $100 billion American dollars.  Since 2001, oil prices have risen by more than 230 percent, so clearly these impacts are real and harmful to working families.  Those hard-earned American dollars are coming out of the pockets of working families and going overseas.  Last year, Americans sent $271 billion to foreign countries to pay for imported oil.  It is fair to say that many of those dollars went to governments who do not have our foreign policy interests at heart.

“Meanwhile, the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that the global warming crisis is real, grave and growing.  Earlier this year, the House and Senate both passed a landmark, comprehensive energy bill to tackle each prong of the energy crisis:  It should help lower prices by reducing our dependence on oil, developing renewable fuel alternatives and punishing price gougers – and it begins to turn the tide of global warming.  We could save 1.2 million barrels per day by 2020 by increasing CAFE standards.  We require additional savings of 10 million barrels per day on average by 2030.  And we set an ambitious schedule to replace about one-fifth of our petroleum consumption with renewable fuels.   

“This bill is a good start – and it is long overdue.  But we also need more cooperation from energy companies.  Last year, oil companies brought in $117 billion in profits.  Let me repeat that – $117 billion.  Yet we have not seen them step up to the plate to do their part.  They should be making meaningful investments in clean, renewable alternatives to petroleum.  They should be leading the way.

“Instead, lobbyists for the oil, auto and coal industries are trying their best to weaken our bill or stop its progress.  Imagine where we would be now if they had decided years ago to join us rather than fight us.  The time to stand in the way of progress should be long past.  But since we passed the energy bill on a bipartisan basis, Senate Republicans have blocked us from going to conference.  We can’t let up, and we will continue to work with the House to pass a final bill despite these challenges.

“I hope and believe that Democrats and Republicans will find common ground to set a new course that will keep us safe, grow our economy and protect our planet.  Today’s record oil prices alone should be enough to convince us that we must act quickly to complete the energy bill and pass it into law.”

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