Senate Democrats

Reid: Energy Bill An Historic Opportunity To Lower Gas Prices, Increase Energy Independence

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate before voting for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to strengthen America’s energy independence, national security and economy.  Republicans then blocked the legislation from passing by one vote: 

Below are his statements as prepared for delivery:

“It is time to stop talking and start putting America on the path to a cleaner, safer and more affordable energy future.  As my colleagues doubtlessly recall, the energy bill originally passed both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan majorities.

“Democrats and many Republicans agree that we must pass this energy bill for four reasons:  First, we must take actions that will help reduce the constantly rising prices Americans pay to fill up their cars with gas and heat their homes.  With gas prices in Nevada and throughout most of the country well over $3 a gallon, that’s never been more important.  Second, we must begin to break our country’s addiction to oil, which forces us to do business with unstable governments and regions of the world.  Third, we must begin to reverse the global warming crisis brought on mainly by our use of fossil fuels.  And fourth, investing in renewable energy creates jobs – thousands in Nevada, and countless thousands throughout America.

“Last week, the Republican minority blocked this crucial bipartisan bill from passing.  In order to ease their concerns, we have reluctantly removed the Renewable Electricity Standard from the version of the bill now before us.  The Renewable Electricity Standard would have required that by 2020, 15 percent of our nation’s electricity come from renewable, environmentally-sound sources.  Taking this step would reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 126 million metric tons – reduce the cost of our natural gas and electricity bills by between $13 billion and $18 billion – and create good, new American jobs.

“This is not the last we’ll hear of the Renewable Electricity Standard.   The Senate has passed a similar RES before and the Senate will pass it again.  But in the spirit of compromise and a genuine pursuit of progress, Democrats have reluctantly agreed to remove that important provision from the energy bill.  And that’s not all.  We have also compromised by making several changes to the energy tax title to accommodate the Republican minority.  I would have preferred to make these tax credits permanent, or certainly longer than two years.  But this compromise will ensure that critical investments in clean and sustainable sources of energy will continue.  Entrepreneurs, who are looking at new solar, wind and geothermal projects, will be spurred to action if we help make their investment worthwhile.

“So, I am hopeful that we will reach the 60 votes necessary to send this bill to the House and on to the President before the end of the year.  I hope that many Republicans will recognize the importance of this bill to their states and the country.   

“The White House has objected to our provisions requiring the major oil and gas companies to part with $10 billion or $15 billion of the tax breaks that they are scheduled to receive over the next 10 years.  But let’s be clear.  Our bill eliminates those tax breaks for Big Oil – an industry raking in record profits of half a trillion dollars in the last six years – so that we can invest more in clean energy.  Plus, the tax title will provide money for the Secure Rural Schools program as well as at least one year full funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program.  As many of my colleagues in the West know, these are important programs for rural counties that have excessive Federal land ownership.

“Democrats and Republicans alike should agree that even without the Renewable Electricity Standard we have an energy bill that will reduce energy costs, begin to break our addiction to oil, and reverse the threat of global warming.  This is still an important and historic bill, and I am happy to support it.  I ask that all of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle hear the call of the American people for lower energy costs, less oil consumption and a cleaner environment – and send this historic energy bill to the President’s desk.

“This could be the first step toward an energy revolution that starts in America that ripples throughout the world.  I hope Senators will find the common ground to take that first step.”