Ensuring Energy Security

Madam Speaker, in these opening weeks of the 110th Congress, the Democratic majority in the House has succeeded in passing a package of bills that is designed to secure America. We passed a bill to improve our Nation's ability to prevent another 9/11 style attack on our country. We have made life a little more secure for millions in the United States who toil at the minimum wage, and millions of young people who leave college with a degree and a mountain of debt. We have secured the ability of America's medical researchers to explore and exploit the life-saving potential of stem cells. We have committed this government to safeguarding our economic security by ending years of fiscal irresponsibility. And today, we have begun what may be the most important project of all, to ensure America's energy security by ending our dependence on foreign oil and developing clean, green renewable sources of energy.

Ensuring our energy security will require more than just the protection of American oil supplies from terrorists in hostile nations. It will also mean we find homegrown fuel sources that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

It will mean that we pare down our energy consumption and promote efficiency. It will mean that we transition to renewable energy sources that ensure a clean, dependable energy supply for years to come.

There are those who say that it would cost too much to shift our infrastructure over to new energy sources. They say that the market has decided that coal and oil are the cheapest energy, and that switching to renewable energy would harm our economy.

This is shortsighted, false, and, ultimately, dangerous because much of the true cost of oil and coal don't appear on the gas pump or on our electric bills. Extracting coal and oil harms the environment and burning fossil fuels produces pollution that clogs our cities and greenhouse gases that warm our atmosphere. Tens of thousands of Americans get lung cancer and other respiratory diseases from power plant air pollution and this, too, is part of the true cost of ``cheap'' energy. These expenses are paid by the American people just as surely as they pay their electric bills.

But to find the true cost of a barrel of oil, we must look further, to a foreign policy beholden to oil and gas, and that price is too steep.

Today the House passed a bill that will roll back tax breaks for oil and gas companies and reform the royalty relief system that has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. The $13 billion dollars saved by this overdue reform will be placed in a strategic reserve to be spent on programs to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and alternative fuels, promote energy efficiency, and step up research on advanced energy technologies. Initiatives like these are the only way to permanently reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and this bill is a good first step on the road to true energy security.

European and Asian competitors are already developing technologies that will reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions of greenhouse gases. Rather than American entrepreneurs, it is our competitors who are prospering from these developments. By marshaling America's great strengths, our inventiveness, our technological prowess, and our entrepreneurial spirit, we can better secure our Nation, save our environment, and become the world leader in this cutting-edge industry.

We must encourage the development of flexible-fuel and hybrid vehicles. These vehicles can be built with today's technology and will enable a smooth transition from gasoline to biofuels.

We must raise the corporate average fuel economy standards.

We must invest in research and development of new energy technologies, like wind power, cheap solar cells, plug-in hybrid cars, and cellulosic ethanol. The new energy economy will be dominated by rapid innovation, and the scientific investment we make now will be paid back with interest by the technologies it creates.

We must encourage employers to offer mass-transit benefits so that employees can commute without their cars, and support mass transit systems around the country.

We must pass global warming legislation to reduce our output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Many of America's most successful companies have realized that something must be done to contain global warming and they are now pushing Congress to lead.

We know what must be done to end our dangerous addiction to oil. All we need now is the will to do it.

Madam Speaker, we have lost so much time since 9/11, time that could have been so profitably used to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But it is not too late to abruptly and constructively change course. The American people are ready for a clean energy economy, and the bill we passed today will begin to put our country on that new road to energy independence and a more secure future.