Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander -- Find More, Use Less

Posted on July 23, 2008

Mr. President, I listened to the Democratic leader discuss the legislative calendar. With respect, I believe the Democratic leadership in the Senate is approaching the crisis of $4 gasoline with all the urgency of naming a post office. It seems their idea is to talk until there is one amendment over there and one amendment over here, both of which may fail, and then go on to the next thing. I have just come back from 4 days in Tennessee. I believe that if I walked down the street in Nashville or Maryville or Knoxville or wherever and talked to 100 people and said: What do you think we ought to be doing in the Senate? I would get the same answer. It would be this: We would like for you to go do something serious about $4 gasoline prices and we would like you to work across party lines to get it done. We are ready to do that, we on the Republican side, and I think many Democrats are as well. Yet what the Democratic leadership did was bring up a bill on Friday that addresses oil speculation and put us in a procedural situation where all we can do is talk and talk and talk. We could have started last Friday with amendments on finding more oil and using less oil. We have 25 or 30 on this side. I will bet there are that many on the other side -- I will bet there are more than that. We could be on our fifth day of debating and voting on a substantial piece of legislation to increase the supply of American energy and reduce our use of oil, which is the way to lower gasoline prices. That is what we should do today. If we do not do it today, we should do it tomorrow. We should not stop until we get it done. That is why we are here. That is what the American people expect of us. The majority leader has brought up a bill about speculation. There is nothing wrong with that. It is his right to do that. We recognize that, because in the Republican bill we offered, we suggested we would find more oil by drilling offshore and giving States the option to do that on their shores, and by lifting the moratorium from oil shale final regulations -- that would increase American production of oil by a third. That is substantial. We are the third largest producer of oil in the world. That may help affect prices. On the other side, we want to use less oil, and we would do that by making plug-in cars and trucks commonplace, cars and trucks powered by electricity, which would reduce our use of oil. If we did those three things on the find more and use less side, we could cut our use of imported oil in half over time, which would stop sending about $250 or $300 billion a year overseas to other countries, some of which are paying terrorists who are trying to kill us. But oil speculation has its limits. Oil speculation is a part of our bill. We believe we should put 100 cops on the block. We need more cops on the block who are commodities regulators. We need to find out more about these new financial instruments and the effect they might be having on the price of oil. But you cannot deal with oil speculation unless you deal with supply and demand. The Interagency Task Force on Commodity Markets has been studying this question for 5 years. They said today -- I heard it on National Public Radio because I drove in early -- their interim report on crude oil studied fundamental supply and demand factors and the roles of various market participants, and it found that "the fundamental supply and demand factors provide the best explanation for the recent crude oil price increases." That is what the Government says. Here is what a private sector individual, who has been pretty successful, says -- Warren Buffett: "It is not speculation, it is supply and demand." We can deal with oil speculation. We have proposed doing that in the Gas Price Reduction Act. But saying that by passing a bill on oil speculation we deal with $4 gas would be like saying we are passing a bill on thirst without dealing with water. We have to move on to supply and demand. That is why we say we should be finding more and using less. In Tennessee yesterday, Nissan announced that it was entering into an agreement with the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority to make our State hospitable for a pure electric car that Nissan intends to have on the market for fleets by 2010 and for individuals by 2012. According in Nissan's plans, the car will go 100 miles without having to be recharged. Carlos Ghosn, the president of Nissan and Renault, wants a zero emissions or an emissions-free car on the market. He wants counties and mayors who want that to be able to have it in their fleets. That is part of the Gas Price Reduction Act proposal. We understand we have to reduce demand as well as increase supply. But the other side is stuck on using only half of the law of supply and demand. They have forgotten economics 101. We say offshore drilling. They say no, we can't. We say oil shale. They say no, we can't. We say five or six new nuclear powerplants a year so we can have clean electricity for our plug-in cars and trucks. They say no, we can't. We say bring up gas prices and put it on the Senate floor and let's stay here until we finish. I heard all this talk about the legislative calendar. The legislative calendar isn't more important than the family budget. The legislative calendar is not more important than the family budget, and what is breaking the family budget today is gasoline prices. Four-dollar gasoline is driving up the price for fueling our cars and trucks. It is driving up the cost of food because, as we know, energy is such an important part of agriculture. People are hurting. Every week, I am on the floor reading e-mails from Tennesseans who are canceling their vacations, losing their jobs, unable to go get medical treatment because they cannot afford the price of gasoline. What are we doing? We are talking when the Democratic leader could instantly put us into a situation where we could spend a week or 10 days considering two or three dozen good amendments, vote them up or down, and see if we could work across party lines to come to a result. Will we solve every problem in a week's debate in a bill we pass before August? No, of course not. We really should be on the path toward clean energy independence. I suggested in May that we need a new Manhattan Project, like the one we had in World War II for the atom bomb, where we have a crash program for 5 years on the things we don't know how to do, such as make solar power competitive with fossil fuels or reprocess nuclear waste so it can be stored more easily or make more new buildings green buildings or advanced research on biofuels -- crops we don't eat. But there are some things we know how to do today. Mr. President, 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf, where we have the opportunity to produce oil and gas, is, by congressional action, off limits today. It was off limits according to the President's action too, but he changed the Presidential order last week. What happened? The price of oil went down. I don't know exactly to what extent the President's action had an effect on the price of oil, but I do know this: If we were to take action today on supply and demand, the price of gasoline today would stabilize and begin to go down because today's price is based upon the expected supply and demand 3 to 5 years from now. If we demonstrate in our proposal, as our proposal says, that the United States of America, which consumes 25 percent of all the energy in the world, is prepared to increase our production of oil by a third and reduce our use of oil by a sixth, that together would reduce the supply of imported oil; it would cut it in half. If we did that today, it would affect the price of oil today. Our solution is four words: Find more use less. Find more, use less. We believe in both parts of the supply and demand. The other side is dancing around. I think they have badly misjudged the American people and the urgency of this question. We need to do everything we can in the next week or so to fashion a bill that takes a substantial step toward increasing the supply and reducing demand for oil -- not saying no, we can't; no, we can't; no, we can't. We can say yes, we can, to finding more and using less, and the American people expect us to do that. That is why we are here. We can start today.