Senate Democrats

Reid: We Must View Energy Challenges As An Opportunity To Create Jobs, Strengthen National Security, Protect Environment

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today to open the bipartisan Senate Energy Summit:

“There are many who deserve credit and thanks for organizing this summit.  Leader McConnell; Senators Bingaman and Domenici; the many leaders from government, academics, and industry.  And especially, Senator Conrad – a lead organizer of the bipartisan ‘Gang of 10,’ which then became the ‘Gang of 16” and now stands at the “Gang of 22.”  He has pushed relentlessly to comprehensive energy legislation.

“We have seen two diverging trends in the energy debate – one very encouraging, one less helpful.  On one side, as the fall campaign heats up, we have seen energy move into a more partisan realm, with candidates looking to score points with sound bites that solve nothing.  But on the other side, we are seeing an increasing consensus that when all the political dust settles, our energy challenges cannot fall victim to partisan bickering.

“We see this encouraging trend toward bipartisanship in the Gang of 22.  No one expects the product of their work to be perfect – compromise never is.  But an equal number of Democrats and Republicans sitting down, seeking common ground, is a step in the right direction.

“We saw bipartisanship in the Las Vegas energy summit last month.  Industry, labor, sportsmen, environmentalists, Democrats and Republicans came together with clear heads and serious purpose.  I gladly shared the stage with T. Boone Pickens, a life-long Republican, because we agree that our energy crisis is far bigger than the letter next to our name – D or R.

“Today’s summit is the latest step in this bipartisan trend, which has also been a hallmark of Senator Bingaman and Domenici’s work on the Energy Committee.  We will hear from noted academics, leaders of America’s high-tech giants, and yes, oil company executives.

“With energy legislation moving to the floor of the Senate as early as next week, this is a rare opportunity to put our ideas directly into action.  But the legislation of this work period is just one of many steps.

“My Senate colleagues and our panels of experts will discuss their ideas in greater detail, but there are a few goals I would like to see accomplished today.  I think it’s important we all agree that a problem as big as this requires comprehensive solutions.  In all the places where truth counts more than slogans, it is agreed that there is no single ‘magic bullet.’  We need to decrease our consumption of fossil fuels.  We can conserve energy painlessly and cost-effectively by improving efficiency in household appliances and the ways we build new buildings.  We also need to demand and expect better fuel efficiency from our automobiles.

“One hundred years ago, the Ford Model T was introduced.  It averaged 13-21 miles per gallon.  Since then, we have invented television, taken to the skies, landed a man on the moon – yet many of our cars and trucks in 2008 average 13-21 miles per gallon.  We can do better – and one part of the solution is the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Incentives Program.  I am committed to do everything I can to secure funding to implement this important program before the end of the year.

“We need to hasten our transition away from oil.  That means incentivizing the production of home-grown renewable alternatives.  We also need to bring prices down for the oil we use.  That means going after any speculator, price gouger or oil-producing nation who game or cheat the system and leave American consumers paying the bill.

“Finally, I think we can all agree that we need to view this not as a crisis but as an opportunity.  The most efficient automobiles in the world can be made in America.  The solar panels and wind turbines that will power the planet in the years to come can be built by American workers.  The transition from the fossil fuels of old to the renewable fuels of tomorrow can create jobs, protect our national security and cleanse our environment.

“Already, state and local governments are joining with private sector entrepreneurs to get the clean energy revolution started.  You’re seeing it in places all across America, where wind, solar and geothermal are moving from laboratories to our roofs, farms and offices.

“It’s time – long past time – for the federal government to take the lead to help the clean revolution take hold in every city and town across our country.  The American people demand and deserve bold ideas and creative solutions.  I hope today’s panel will contribute meaningfully to ending the status quo politics of old and moving us forward.”