WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today voiced disappointment with Senate Democrats for their failure to vote in favor of common-sense legislation that would bring down the price of energy and increase American jobs. Senate Democrats defeated the McConnell amendment 4720 to S. 2284, the Flood Insurance bill, down party lines by a vote of 42-56. Senator Inhofe, a co-sponsor of the amendment, was unable to vote on the bill today because he is touring the recent tornado damage in Picher, Oklahoma, with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, FEMA Director David Paulison, U.S. Representative Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry.
“Today’s vote on energy legislation represents a stark contrast between Republicans and Democrats,” Senator Inhofe said. “Rather than raise taxes, block production, increase regulations, and call for investigations, the Republicans offered common-sense legislation that works to bring down the price of gas at the pump and the cost of energy in our homes. The Republican approach brings down prices by increasing access to domestic supplies, expanding the nation’s refinery capacity, and promoting market-based alternatives for our energy future. Importantly, the bill includes key provisions from my Gas Petroleum Refiner Improvement & Community Empowerment Act of 2007 (Gas PRICE Act), legislation that is designed to improve the permitting process for the expansion of existing and construction of new refineries. Unfortunately, no matter how high energy costs soar, too many Democrats and their liberal special interest allies continue to block any meaningful measures to help alleviate the pain of high energy costs on American families.
“There should be no surprise that Congress is back again looking for ways to address skyrocketing energy costs. Just four months ago I voted against a Democrat energy bill specifically because I believed it failed Oklahoma and the nation by doing nothing to address rising energy costs. Absent from their ‘energy’ bill were domestic energy resources – such as oil, natural gas, nuclear and clean coal technologies – that are essential to securing an American energy supply that is stable, diverse, and affordable. Today Republicans offered an amendment that would increase domestic energy supplies and once again Democrats voted no.”
What Senator Inhofe Believes Congress Should Do Now to Bring Down Skyrocketing Energy Costs:
Increasing Domestic Refining Capacity
Any legislation to bring down the price of gas at the pump must address domestic refining capacity. Legislation Senator Inhofe introduced last year, the Gas PRICE Act, – now included in the Domestic Energy Production Act of 2008 – is designed to improve the permitting process for the expansion of existing and construction of new refineries. The bill establishes a 360-day deadline for the approval or disapproval of consolidated permit applications for new refineries and a 120-day deadline for permits to expand an existing refinery. Its enactment will put an end to the outsourcing of U.S. refining capacity and U.S. jobs. Senator Inhofe originally introduced the bill in 2005 after conducting a series of EPW Committee hearings detailing how environmental regulations impact energy security. (See Gas PRICE Act Fact Sheet)
Increasing Domestic Energy Exploration
Increasing domestic energy exploration and production is essential. Currently, oil and gas exploration and production is prohibited on 85 percent of America’s offshore waters. Canada, on the other hand, allows offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Great Lakes. Additionally, Cuba is looking to expand drilling which could occur within 45 miles of parts of Florida and with technology that is much less environmentally sound than that used by American companies. If President Clinton hadn’t vetoed legislation allowing environmentally sensitive exploration on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) 10 years ago, today we would have 1 million additional barrels of oil a day coming from ANWR, which would mean lower gas prices for consumers and more energy security. The Domestic Energy Production Act of 2008 allows for environmentally sensible drilling in ANWR. It also allows individual States to decide if drilling should be permitted in their offshore waters. Its enactment would allow American companies such as Oklahoma-based Devon and Conoco Phillips to increase our domestic supplies, make the nation more energy secure, and keep American jobs and dollars at home.
Senator Inhofe urged the President and Congress to take swift and meaningful action to help mitigate the damaging impact of our nation’s irresponsible biofuels mandate. Several Senators on both sides of the aisle have now spoken out on the need to find ways to address this problem. The five-fold increase in the biofuels mandates was yet another failure of last year’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Congress must have the courage to address this issue and address it now.
Section 526 Repeal
Senator Inhofe authored legislation to repeal Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which prohibits federal agencies from contracting to procure nonconventional, or alternative, fuels that emit higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions than ‘conventional petroleum sources.’ Senator Inhofe worked to include language in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 recognizing that unconventional fuels such as oil shale and tar sands developed in the U.S. and Canada are strategically important and necessary to develop to reduce the growing dependence of the U.S. on foreign oil. Despite the potential enormity of the provision’s consequences, no public hearings, discourse, or examination occurred before its inclusion. The scope of fuels that could be prohibited is left wide-open to interpretation, including fuels such as Canadian oil sands, E85 ethanol, and coal- and natural gas-to-liquids fuel, which has powered B-52H bomber aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base. Senator Inhofe is particularly concerned that Section 526 could limit the diversity and supply of fuel for our nation’s Air Force and other military branches. Our military could be forced to obtain a greater percentage of petroleum from unstable regions of the world, endangering our ability to quickly and economically obtain much-needed fuel to conduct operations vital to the defense of our nation. At a time when our troops are involved in two large-scale foreign conflicts, our military must have the flexibility to secure and develop alternative sources of fuel.
Inhofe Taking Action to Bring Down Energy Prices:
-On April 29, 2008, Senator Inhofe delivered a Senate Floor speech calling for “dramatic” action to address global food difficulties caused in part by current biofuel mandates. Specifically, Senator Inhofe called on Congress to revisit the recently enacted biofuel mandate, which can only be described as the most expansive biofuel mandate in our nation’s history. The mandates were part of last year’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Congress must have the courage to address this issue and address it now. Second, Senator Inhofe said that the EPA has the congressionally-given authority to waive all or portions of these food-to-fuel mandates as part of its rule-making process. The EPA must thoroughly review all options to alleviate the food and fuel disruption of the 2007 Energy Bill biofuel mandates. Senator Inhofe explained, “Now when you have Lester Brown, Miles O’Brien, Dan Rather, Time Magazine, the New York Times, the United Nations, and James Inhofe all in agreement on changing an environmental policy, you can rest assured the policy is horribly misguided. All of these publications and individuals now realize the pure folly of the Federal government’s biofuels mandates.”
In the floor speech, Senator Inhofe noted Oklahoma’s role in developing ethanol that does not rely on corn. Senator Inhofe noted: “Fortunately, all ethanol is not created equal. The idea that we can grow energy rich crops all over the country – not just in the Midwest – is something worth considering, and that’s why I support research into cellulosic biomass ethanol. I am particularly pleased by the efforts taking place in Oklahoma. This week, the Oklahoman reported in an April 28, 2008 article: “As experts turn against corn ethanol, Oklahoma is continuing to elbow for a spot in the so-called second generation of the biofuels movement — a generation that won't use food for fuel. In recent months, turning corn into fuel has met criticism on two fronts: It's been blamed as a factor in sky-high food prices that have led to riots in Asia, Africa and Haiti; and it's been cast as an environmental villain, since studies say corn ethanol, on the whole, creates more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. But Oklahoma's biofuels industry is going down a different path. Since last year, the state has been investing tax money in switchgrass — a potential biofuel that's no good for food and is praised for its environmental benefits.”
-On May 1, 2008, Sen. Inhofe joined with Senate Republicans to introduce common sense legislation to address the skyrocketing costs of energy prices on Oklahoman and American families.
-On May 2, 2008, Senator Inhofe joined two dozen Senators in sending a letter to Steve Johnson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking the EPA to exercise its waiver authority regarding the biofuel mandate. The letter states: “Congress gave the EPA authority to waive all or portions of these mandates, as well as rule-making authority to structure the mandates for the benefit of all Americans. We believe the EPA should begin the process of examining alternatives to ease severe economic and emerging environmental consequences that are developing in America as a result of the mandate…American families are feeling the financial strain of these food-to-fuel mandates in the grocery aisle and are growing more concerned about the emerging environmental concerns of growing corn-based ethanol. It is essential for the EPA to respond quickly to the consequences of these mandates. Congress made the mandates in the EISA different from existing mandates to provide flexibility and to encourage innovation in advanced and cellulosic fuels. We believe today’s circumstances merit the use of this flexibility.”
-On May 7, 2008, Senator Inhofe went on the Michael Reagan Show to discuss his efforts to bring down prices at the pump, in our homes and in our grocery stores. Listen to the interview by clicking here.
-On May 8, 2008, Senator Inhofe delivered remarks on the Senate Floor in support for the Domestic Energy Production Act of 2008. Senator Inhofe talked about the need to increase refining capacity as well as expand domestic exploration.