Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Kerry Before Senate on Gas Prices and Energy Dependence

“Mr. President, once again today President Bush will talk about the rising cost of gas hurting Americans at the pump - and he’ll talk about our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

“The issue today is not that the President doesn’t understand the problem, it’s that he has no solutions. Just last weekend President Bush used his radio address to urge Americans to support his energy legislation. He said, ‘American families and small businesses across the country are feeling the pinch from rising gas prices.’ President Bush is right that families are struggling; he’s wrong about the energy bill.

“The energy plan he continues to campaign for will make us more dependent on foreign oil, it will keep gas prices at record highs instead of making them affordable for consumers, and it will make our air and water more polluted instead of investing in a cleaner future.

“Mr. President, we need honest leadership and sound solutions to solve this very real energy crisis. This crisis affects our economy, our security, and our environment.

“The President’s status quo energy policies are hurting consumers at the pump, and no amount of tax payer funded, campaign style events can cover it up, because the evidence is posted on signs at every gas station in America. Americans are paying an average of $2.28/gallon at the pump. That’s up six cents in just the last week and over 50 cents in the last year. For the fourth week in a row gas prices are at an all-time high, and have now increased a staggering 56% since 2001.

“A recent Gallup survey revealed that 44% of Americans believe it’s ‘extremely important for Congress and the President to address gas prices.’ But you only need to look at the legislation promoted by the President and set to be voted on in the House this week to see that yet again Washington isn’t doing the work of the American people.

“Under this Administration, higher gas prices cost American consumers an extra $34 billion. Airlines, truckers and farmers spent an extra $20 billion last year alone. That’s a regressive energy tax on the backs of working Americans if I’ve ever seen one.

“But the Administration’s friends got off a lot easier, and this energy bill will make their load even lighter. While American workers and families were struggling, oil companies earned record profits in the fourth quarter of 2004: ExxonMobil up 218%, ConocoPhillips up 145%, Shell up 51%, ChevronTexaco up 39% and BP up 35%. What’s the President proposing? Just think about this: Ninety-five percent of the tax benefits included in the package - more than 8 billion dollars - goes directly into the pockets of big oil and gas companies. At a time when oil prices are at historic highs, our energy policy should be aimed at investing in new and renewable sources of energy, not lining the pockets of big special interests.

“What’s good for is the Administration’s contributors has not been good for our economy. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan has said, ‘Markets for oil and natural gas have been subject to a degree of strain over the past year not experienced for a generation.’ The Chairman of the President’s own Council of Economic Advisors has admitted, ‘High energy prices are now a drag on our economy.’

“The problem goes even deeper. The Administration’s failure to propose a real energy policy also threatens our national security. We are more dependent on foreign oil than ever before, forcing us to into dangerous and compromising political entanglements with nations in the Middle East. America will never be fully secure until we free ourselves from the noose of foreign oil.

“Unfortunately, this so-called energy plan does nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But don’t just take my word for it - the President’s own economists found that oil imports will actually increase 85% by 2025 under a proposal like this. The President’s economists also found that ‘changes to production, consumption, imports, and prices are negligible.’ You don’t have to be an expert on oil or energy to understand this, you just have to able to count to figure out that God only gave us 3% of the worlds’ oil reserves - Saudi Arabia has 65% of them - we can’t drill our way to energy independence, we have to invent our way there.

“Mr. President, this energy bill isn’t even a band-aid on a very real energy crisis that threatens our economy and hurts our national security. About the only thing it does well is fatten the coffers of big energy companies. There is a reason Senator McCain, called the energy bill the ‘No Lobbyist Left Behind Act.’

“What kind of message do these policies send? If your profits go up, so do your subsidies. If the policy makes us more dependent on foreign oil, make the status quo even worse.

“Mr. President, we should be doing better than this. Energy policy gives us a rare chance to address so many challenges at once.

“If we end our dependence on foreign oil, we strengthen our national security.

“If we lead the world in inventing new energy technologies, we create thousands of high-paying American jobs.

“If we learn to tap clean sources of energy, we preserve a clean environment for our families and future generations.

“If we remove the burden of high gas prices, American consumers can spend elsewhere and give our economy the boost it needs.

“Unfortunately, this energy bill accomplishes none of these goals. Instead, it is laden with handouts to corporate special interests. When it comes to real energy policy, President Bush has run out of gas. The solutions to our energy crisis are staring us in the face, yet we continue to ignore them.

“Mr. President, it is long since time Washington came together on real energy policy -- to Americans who are suffering the consequences of Washington’s failure, we owe more than staged events to promote policies that don’t hold the answers.”


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