CongressHouse FloorSenate Floor • U.S. Capitol: 202-224-3121

March 31, 2011

Approach to Energy

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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, later this morning, the President is expected to outline his vision for improving our Nation's energy security. But, as we frequently have seen with this administration, what it says and what it does are often two very different things. So this morning I would like to discuss some of the things the administration has actually done when it comes to energy, and then I would like to propose some things Republicans would do differently.

It should go without saying that Americans are ready for action on this issue. With average gas prices approaching $4 a gallon in most parts of the country, growing uncertainty and unrest in the Middle East, and a jobs crisis here at home, Americans want the President to outline a serious plan today which will make us less dependent, not more, on foreign sources of oil and which stimulates job creation here. Unfortunately, what they have gotten instead are more of the same halfhearted proposals Democrats have trotted out every other time Americans get squeezed at the pump. Instead of facing the problem of higher energy prices head-on, Democrats are once again paying lipservice to those concerns with fake solutions that only aim to distract people from what they are really up to.

It is my hope that the President changes that tune today, but I am not holding my breath because we have seen how this plays out many times before. Tell a Democrat in Washington that gas prices are too high, and as if on cue they will throw together a speech or a press conference to suggest that we open an underground oil reserve that was created to deal with calamities, not market pressures; they will take you on a tour of some alternative car plant that promises to have one of its $100,000 prototypes to market 25 years down the road or they will quietly release some report to the media about how energy companies really are not working hard enough to extract oil, while schizophrenically claiming American reserves are minuscule and that more production is not the solution.

This last item is a perennial favorite of our friends on the other side. The idea here is to somehow blame energy companies for not producing enough energy on their own. What Democrats don't mention, however, is that a drilling lease is nothing more than an agreement with the government that a company has a right to explore for oil and gas in a certain area, not a guarantee that they will find it. They never see fit to mention that most of the area that could be leased is off limits thanks to the redtape factory Democrats operate here in Washington. Honestly, are we supposed to believe that the same administration that declared a blanket moratorium on all offshore drilling off the gulf coast, which chased away rigs and jobs to other countries, and which established new regulations that make getting a new drilling permit virtually impossible, now believes that energy companies aren't drilling enough?

This doesn't even pass the laugh test, but it does suggest that Democrats don't even believe their own arguments about decreased production not affecting price. It is my hope that the President acknowledges as much today--that when you shut down drilling, higher prices and fewer jobs are sure to follow.

The truth is we could use a lot more honesty on this whole issue from Democrats. Despite what some on the other side might say, Republicans are as eager as Democrats to develop alternative sources of energy. But everybody knows it will take years, if not decades, to get to the point where they will be economically viable and widely used. The President's target is decades from now. But Americans should be able to expect action now, and all they get from Democrats is a pretty picture of some far-off future we have been hearing about for decades, and not a word about the things Democrats are doing to make it harder to find and use energy we already have right here.

Initial news reports about the President's speech today mention that the administration is determined to derive 80 percent of U.S. energy from clean energy sources in the year 2035. I am sure we could generate a great deal of bipartisan support for much of what the President will call for, assuming it doesn't involve Federal mandates. But what does any of this have to do with the crisis at hand--the crisis right now? The guy who is trying to make ends meet wants to know what you are going to do for him today, not 24 years from now. But, of course, the administration doesn't have anything to say to that guy because the administration's energy policy isn't aimed at him. If it were, then the administration would be locking down domestic energy sources. It wouldn't be looking to pass new regulations through the EPA that will impose a national energy tax on every business, large and small. It wouldn't be telling our allies in Brazil that while it is great that they found oil off their coast, those who want to search for oil off our coast and on our mainland can't. In other words, it is great the Brazilians are drilling offshore but not so good that we are. It wouldn't be telling job creators in the energy industry to look elsewhere.

In his remarks today, the President is also expected to call for decreasing imports of foreign oil. Yet last week he told Brazilians that he hopes America becomes a major customer of Brazilian oil. Well, which is it? Which is it, Mr. President? Clearly, on this issue, the President is telling people what he thinks they want to hear.

Over the past 2 years, the administration has undertaken what can only be described as a war on American energy. It has canceled dozens of drilling leases, it has declared a moratorium on drilling off the gulf coast, it has increased permit fees, and it has prolonged public comment periods. In short, it has done about everything it can to keep our energy sector from growing. As a result, thousands of U.S. workers have lost their jobs as companies have been forced to look elsewhere for a better business climate.

Consider this: Three of the areas we could tap in Alaska are thought to hold enough oil to replace our crude imports from the Persian Gulf for nearly 65 years. So the problem isn't that we need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don't want us to use the energy we have. It is enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately.

No, the crisis we face is immediate and it requires immediate action, and that is why Republicans have come up with two concrete proposals that will have a positive practical effect--two things we can do to give Americans relief, job creators a reason to hire, and make all of us less dependent on foreign sources of oil.

First, let's increase American energy production by cutting the redtape and opening areas that the administration has either temporarily blocked, stalled, or closed off to production.

Let's block any new regulations that will drive up production costs for energy, including the administration's proposed new EPA regulations on carbon emissions.

The first proposal is guaranteed--guaranteed--to create jobs by unlocking our energy resources. The second has been described as one of the

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best proposals for growth and job creation to make it onto the Senate docket in years. Let's be clear: The alternatives being offered by the other side are nothing more than a face-saving exercise aimed at allowing Senators who aren't serious about this issue to mislead their constituents into believing they are.

But the American people have put up with distractions and face-saving exercises long enough. They have put up with near double-digit unemployment long enough. They have heard enough about the costly big government proposals Democrats envision for the future. And frankly, they have had it. It is time to address the problems right in front of us. It is time for the President to put forth a serious plan. When it comes to energy, these problems are obvious. So are the answers. It is time for lawmakers to come together and do what we know is right.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

(Senate - March 30, 2011)

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