Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the Consumer-First Energy Act:
“On Friday I spoke of high energy prices – as I have on numerous occasions – and of the need for the Senate to pass the Consumer First Energy Act. When I came to the Senate floor Friday afternoon, I mentioned that the price of oil had spiked all the way to $132.
“While I was delivering my remarks – and by the end of trading on Friday – $132 was already a distant memory and oil was up to $138 a barrel. The massive spike in oil prices we saw on Friday and the corresponding 400-point drop in the Dow only compounded a crisis that has been growing for months and even years.
“When President Bush took office in 2001, a barrel of oil cost $32 and a gallon of gasoline cost about $1.50. Then, the President took us into a war of choice in Iraq, and Vice-President Cheney invited oil executives to the White House to secretly write our national energy legislation.
“They never asked the oil executives to build new refineries or to invest in clean, renewable alternative fuels. They apparently failed to consider the national security implications of our addiction to oil, and never asked the oil companies to invest in clean energy we can grow right here in America.
“As the Bush Administration failed to address these concerns, the Republican Congress stood by silently. Now, the American people are suffering the consequences of the Bush Administration’s recklessness.
“It wasn’t until Democrats won the majority that we finally were able to pass an energy bill last year that increases fuel economy standards and promotes clean, American-made alternative fuels. Democrats continue to offer responsible solutions to reverse the energy crisis – yet our Republican colleagues inexplicably refuse to work with us and prefer to simply continue feeding our addiction to oil. Some Republicans propose drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, but experts agree that we can’t drill our way out of this crisis.
“Last week, Republicans took to the floor to speak about high gas prices. I hope this is a sign that they are finally ready to back their rhetoric with action. This week they will have that chance.
“Today we will vote to invoke cloture so that we can move to pass the Consumer First Energy Act. Republicans have blocked this responsible legislation in the past. Maybe this time things will be different.
“Observers have said that $4 a gallon gasoline might be a tipping point for the American people – with many abandoning their SUVs for hybrids, or abandoning cars altogether in favor of public transportation. That is not an option for everyone, especially Americans living in rural areas and commuting long distances not served by public transportation.
“No matter where we live or what our transportation options are, we all deserve a cleaner, safer, more affordable future. Following the lead of the American people, perhaps Republican Senators have reached their own tipping point and are now ready to embrace change alongside Democrats. We will soon find out.
“Today Republicans will have a simple choice: will they continue to stand with Bush, Cheney and the modern-day oil barons? Or will they join us on the side of struggling American families who deserve better?
“I urge all of my colleagues to support the Consumer First Energy Act. This responsible legislation has four parts:
“First, we end the billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil companies whose executives have been hauling record profits while we pay record prices. Second, we force the oil companies to do their part by investing some of their profits in clean and affordable alternative energy. Third, we protect the American people from price gougers and greedy oil traders who manipulate the market. And fourth, we stand up to OPEC and countries who are colluding together to keep oil prices sky-high.
“I have said before that the Consumer First Energy Act is not a silver bullet that will solve our energy crisis overnight. After seven-and-a-half years of Bush-Cheney energy policy, there are no quick fixes. The American people deserve to know the truth that the road ahead will not be easy.
“But this is a start. It will help lower prices. It will help working families make ends meet. It is one small step on a long and uphill road to a cleaner, more affordable energy future – and to restoring the affordability of the American Dream to families in all corners of our country.”