Senate Democrats


Washington, DCWith Congress beginning the consideration of S.3711, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the United States Senate. Though the bill is a positive step forward for those concerned with the restoration of Gulf Coast wetlands, it is not a fix for America’s energy crisis. Democrats believe Congress must take an aggressive approach to energy policy, and have proposed the Clean EDGE Act, comprehensive legislation to put America on the path to energy independence. With gas prices over $3 nationally and the country addicted to oil, it is time for a new direction.

The text of Senator Reid’s speech, as prepared, is below.

Mr. President, today the Senate is considering a bill that represents a positive step for our nation’s energy security.

S.3711, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, can play a role in building a better energy future for our country and a better future for the people of the Gulf Coast.

Mr. President, S.3711 opens approximately the same area that President Clinton proposed opening to oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. But, when President Bush came into office he narrowed that considerably at the request of his brother, the Governor of Florida.

So this bill moves us back closer to the Clinton proposal with some additional deep-water acreage opened up south of the 181 Area.

It is also a positive step for those who want to see the restoration of our Gulf Coast’s wetlands. These important natural resources have suffered from decades of supplying oil and gas to the country. And we all know the devastation the hurricanes brought to the coasts last year.

This bill will help them get the resources they need to rebuild in a sustainable manner.

I want the people of Louisiana to know that they have a tireless champion in Senator Mary Landrieu. If it were not for her efforts, I doubt very much the Senate would be considering and–hopefully passing–this bill.

But I want to be crystal clear this morning – this bill will do little or nothing to fix America’s energy crisis or the failed Bush-Cheney energy policies. And it won’t have any impact at all on today’s skyrocketing gas prices.

Nationally, prices at the pump are averaging just over 3 dollars a gallon. That’s a record, at least in nominal terms. In Reno, Nevada, gas is about 3 dollars and 12 cents–up more than 50 cents from a year ago.

Let me say again – this bill will do nothing to bring down gasoline or diesel prices. They won’t come down as long as demand keeps growing and the Big Oil Companies aren’t investing their billions and billions of dollars in profits in new America energy jobs and manufacturing and in developing alternatives to oil.

This country needs a crash course to develop alternative and renewable energy. Unfortunately, this administration and this Republican Congress have not been willing to pursue this path.

We need to quickly bring much more fuel efficient cars and trucks to market and really promote energy efficiency and conservation.

That’s one real difference between Democrats and Republicans – speed. We’ve been ready for some time to demand and fund an Apollo Project-like effort on energy.

Obviously, Republicans aren’t interested, since they’ve opposed emergency spending on energy, under funded even the mediocre energy bill from last year and the Administration still hasn’t gotten around to issuing loan guarantees to build new biofuels plants.

Democrats want to transform the nation’s energy policy now. But, the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress is content to let the market and Big Oil crush consumers, squeezing every last coin out of their pockets.

This morning, the Majority Leader said there is a lot more we can do and should do in the future on energy policy.

Mr. President – I make this point to the Majority Leader and the President – the future is now. Americans are suffering from energy prices and have been since well before last year’s energy bill.

So, what are waiting for? Is this bill all this Congress can manage on energy? I hope we can do better in the few days left.

We have plenty of good ideas. In May, Democrats introduced the Clean EDGE (EDGE= Energy Development for a Growing Economy) bill to accelerate development and commercialization of energy efficiency technologies, renewable energy production and alternative fuel vehicle market penetration.

The Clean EDGE bill has important provisions to make the Federal government a real leader on energy, instead of just the largest consumer.

Our bill also contains important provisions to set a national oil savings goal, increase penalties to punish price gouging, and rein in energy market speculators who are driving up the price of natural gas.

Just a few days ago, 41 Democratic Senators sent a letter to the majority leader stating our desire to move legislation like the Clean EDGE bill before the recess to help bring down prices and give consumers affordable alternatives.

Unfortunately, it seems we will have to continue looking for other legislative opportunities since we need to pass S.3711 cleanly, and send it to the House so they can send on to the President without any significant changes.

But, let’s not kid ourselves. Though this bill is good for the Gulf Coast and will contribute to the nation’s energy security, it will not affect gas prices and really just extends our addiction to oil.