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

March 31, 2011

U.S. Energy Production

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, since President Obama took office, the price

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of a gallon of gasoline at the pump has risen 96 percent--96 percent, from $1.83 to now $3.60, with absolutely no end in sight. Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, the President has virtually shut down the Gulf of Mexico, he has canceled numerous energy lease sales, he has refused to act on stalled onshore permits, he has dramatically increased environmental regulations, and he has begun regulating CO

2 by administrative fiat. All of that has helped get us to where we are.

Today, President Obama went to Georgetown University, and at least he has begun focusing on and addressing the energy situation. I guess I give him points for that. He went to Georgetown today and delivered a speech which he called a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. But, like a lot of Presidential speeches, this is great-sounding rah-rah, nice title but pretty disappointing, from my point of view, on substance.

First of all, let's talk about the whole premise of the speech, a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. I was hopeful, on hearing about the plan for this speech, that we would be seeing an unveiling of a real energy policy, including moving in the right direction in terms of domestic production, utilizing our domestic energy resources. Unfortunately, this is more of the same. In fact, the President admits freely that this is absolutely more of the same. He says:

Today, my administration is releasing a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlines the comprehensive national energy policy we have pushed since the day I took office.

So this is simply a restatement of the last years of policy, in my opinion, clearly failed, clearly counterproductive policy that has helped get us to $3.60 at the pump and climbing.

When you look even more at the substance of the speech, it is more disappointing. The whole speech is about 51 paragraphs. Of those 51 paragraphs, I looked to see how many are about tapping our domestic traditional energy resources. Well, 6 paragraphs of 51--just a little over 10 percent. Four paragraphs were about domestic oil production, and two were about domestic natural gas production. And even those two were mostly about possibly increasing regulation on the production of natural gas from shale, making it more difficult, not accessing more of our domestic energy resources.

What is the picture on domestic oil production, those four paragraphs? Well, the President says:

To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production.

Really? That is a news headline to my constituents in the gulf coast because every day we live a far different reality. We live the reality of an administration that has moved in the opposite direction, making domestic oil and gas production far more difficult, not easier.

Since the tragedy of the BP disaster, we have only had 7 deepwater exploratory permits issued--7 issued--compared to a comparable period before the disaster of 68, so about 10 percent. That is encouraging offshore oil and gas exploration and production? I don't think so. Since that disaster, the working rotary rigs in the gulf have fallen dramatically, from about 55 to 25. It has been cut by more than half. That is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production? I don't think so.

We need to change the policy that is virtually shutting down the gulf and stopping domestic energy production. Seven deepwater exploratory permits is not adequate. Seven, as I said, is roughly 10 percent of the rate that existed before. Of course we need to make changes, and we have. Of course we need to learn the lessons of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and we have. But, again, seven is roughly 10 percent of the previous rate.

We need to do far better, and if we are going to really encourage that domestic production, what about production in Alaska's Beaufort Sea? EPA is sitting on those permits, not issuing those permits. As a result, Shell Oil announced that it is abandoning efforts to produce anything there. Is that what the President is talking about, encouraging oil exploration and production?

What about the lease sales he canceled? President Obama canceled the western lease sale that was scheduled. He canceled that in May of 2010. If you are serious, are you going to reverse that decision? Also, in May of 2010, the President canceled the planned Virginia lease sale. Unfortunately, in this speech, he did not reverse that policy. He is continuing that cancellation.

What about the cancellation of offshore tracts in Alaska's Cook Inlet? The President canceled that in March of this year, this month. Unfortunately, in this speech, he did not reverse that policy.

Withdrawn leases. The President's Department of the Interior has withdrawn 77 lease sales in Utah that were planned. They withdrew those in 2009. No reversal on that policy. Is that encouraging oil exploration and production?

So time and again the President has actually worked in the opposite direction--shutting down domestic production, making it more difficult, not, as he said in his speech today, ``encouraging oil exploration and production.''

We need a new energy policy, not a restated policy, not the same-old same-old from the last 2 years. We need a policy that does many things, including harnessing and accessing our enormous abundance of energy resources in this country.

You know, we Americans are not used to thinking of ourselves as energy-rich, but we are. And nonpartisan, nonbiased sources such as the Congressional Research Service say we are the most energy-rich country in the world bar none. The only country coming close to us is Russia in terms of our vast array and amount of domestic energy resources. We are out of the habit of thinking of ourselves that way for a simple reason: The Congress and this President in particular have taken 95 percent of those abundant resources and put them off limits under Federal law. No other energy-rich country does anything like that. We continue to do it even with the price at the pump rising so dramatically.

We need to stop that. We need to access our own richness, our own resources to take care of ourselves. And that is a big part of the energy plan we need, which, unfortunately, was not part of the President's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future unveiled today, restated today, at Georgetown.

Many colleagues will join me tomorrow in introducing a bill that lays out that new energy vision to unlock the enormous potential we have here at home. The bill is called 3-D: The Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy and Deficit Reduction Act of 2011. I am honored to be joined by between 20 and 30 colleagues--the list is still growing--who will formally introduce that act tomorrow. This is legislation aimed at our domestic energy resources, unshackling that potential, letting us get access to that enormous potential for domestic energy and, with it, great U.S. jobs, jobs right here in this country, and deficit reduction. So many of the primary challenges we face find their nexus in energy. Again, energy independence, self-reliance we need now more than ever, particularly with the unrest in the Middle East.

Secondly, jobs. We say we are trying to do everything we can to come out of this tough recession, but we are not, because the U.S. energy sector has the potential for enormous job growth. Again, we have taken a large percentage of those resources, 95 percent, and put it off limits.

With deficit reduction, along with producing more domestic energy, would come tremendous revenue to the Federal Government. After the personal income tax, this is the top source of Federal revenue--royalties on domestic energy production--second only to the personal income tax. Again, why don't we solve all of these problems--energy independence, U.S. jobs, and deficit reduction--by fully and aggressively developing our U.S. domestic energy sector?

Specifically, the 3-D bill would do six primary things. First, it mandates Outer Continental Shelf lease sales, directing the Interior Department to conduct a lease sale in each Outer Continental Shelf planning area for which there is a commercial interest. It would also consider the 2010-2015 planning area complete.

Secondly, it would open ANWR to energy production. This is a vast source of potential energy production, job creation, and deficit reduction, again, that we have put off limits through congressional and Presidential action.

Third, it would require action on stalled onshore permits, things such as

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the leases that Interior withdrew in 2009 in Utah, things such as EPA inaction, actually withdrawing a CWA permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia, the State Department sitting on the permit issue in terms of the Keystone XL pipeline project, the EPA not issuing permits for Shell Oil operations in offshore Alaska. It would direct action in all of those areas.

Fourth, it would properly limit timeframes for environmental and judicial review. It would not change any of those review standards. It would only change the law so that those reviews could not go on ad infinitum. It would streamline the process and properly and reasonably limit those timeframes.

Fifth, it would block regulation of CO

2 by administrative fiat. We will have a vote soon on that issue. I am hopeful it will be a majority vote in favor of this opinion to block that regulation by administrative fiat that I espouse. This is also included in the 3-D bill.

Sixth, we would actually create an alternative energy trust fund from 25 percent of the new revenue produced from ANWR. It would capture 25 percent of that brandnew revenue for alternative energy development, research, and production. That would be positive as well.

This is the sort of domestic energy focus we need. This is the movement toward real energy security as well as job creation and deficit reduction that I would have hoped the President would have at least hinted at at Georgetown today. But he did not. His speech was the same old same old, explicitly restating what he has been doing for the last 2 years.

I urge all colleagues to join in this effort and to join in similar efforts. Americans face tough times. It is not being made any easier by the price at the pump going up. Again, since President Obama took office, that price has risen 96 percent, from $1.83 per gallon to $3.60 per gallon, and there is no end in sight. We need to access our own resources. We need to put Americans to work. We need to reduce our deficit with that extra new revenue. We can do it all by accessing U.S. domestic energy resources more fully, not putting 95 percent of those resources off limits, off the table by either Presidential fiat or congressional action.

I urge all of my colleagues to join us in this effort, to join similar efforts to give Americans real relief at the pump, to increase our energy independence, to lower the deficit, and to produce good American jobs.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

(Senate - March 30, 2011)

Blueprint Secure Energy Future

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