Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on "Climate Change Legislation and High Gas Prices"

Posted on June 11, 2008

Here we are wanting to debate the climate change bill -- which is a 53-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase proposed primarily by Members of the other side, and which includes a $6.7 trillion slush fund that Members of Congress could spend as they see fit -- and members of the majority party were so embarrassed by it they tried to bring it down and pull it from the floor. This is a bill we should be spending all month talking about. If it is really important to deal with gas prices and electricity prices and climate change and clean air and our overdependence on foreign oil, where are the debaters on climate change? That is the bill we are on today. We -- the Republicans -- said let's continue to discuss this important issue. They said: No, let's bring it down. And for what purpose? To bring up their no-energy bill. Their solution to gas prices -- very cleverly disguised by the Senator from New York -- is more lawsuits, more taxes, and no exploration. Our solution is more American energy now. The Senator from New York said: Well, why should we drill in the 2000 acres of Alaska that would produce a million barrels of oil a day? It would be 10 years before we would see that oil. The answer is that it would be 1 million barrels of oil a day, which would add 1 million to the 6 million we produce. Ten years ago, President Clinton vetoed legislation passed by a Republican Congress to permit more oil exploration in Alaska. If he had not, we would have 1 million more barrels of oil a day of American energy. So that is the reason we should go ahead. We need more American energy now. We are for it; they are not. We are for it; they are not. More American energy now. We know the future is a different kind of future for energy. I have suggested –- with support from many of my colleagues –- that we have a new Manhattan Project, in effect, to focus on things we do not know how to do. How do we get solar power down to the cost of fossil fuel? How do we make plug-in electric cars commonplace? How do we safely dispose of nuclear waste by reprocessing it? How do we have more research for advanced biofuels, made from crops we do not eat? We want that kind of future, where America has achieved clean energy independence. We want to start today to move toward it with the same intellectual horsepower and speed and dollars that we moved toward splitting the atom and building a bomb in World War II. But that is the future. The bridge to the future is to use more American energy now. Gasoline is made from oil. We use 25 percent of the world’s oil. Until we get to this future, we are going to need more of it. We can either buy it from the Middle East and from Venezuela, or we can make more of it here. It is that simple. Today, and in days to follow, I will be reading letters from Tennesseans who have written to me about the effect of gas prices on their families. I received 400 such e-mails in the last few days. Let me read one from Lounita Howard from Lascassas, TN, which is in Rutherford County: The high gas prices have hit my husband and myself especially hard. We are both self-employed. Bobby is a full-time farmer (one of few remaining in Wilson County, Tennessee), and I own a small community newspaper, The Watertown Gazette. I live nearly 20 miles from my office, but working from home is not an option. I'm spending close to $70 a week on gas just commuting to Watertown from our farm in Lascassas. (We live just in Wilson County.) Two years ago, it cost me $30 to $35 a week. Diesel fuel is another story. Road fuel is running around $4.70 a gallon. Off-road fuel for tractors is around $4.30 or $4.40. She goes on to tell about her husband Bobby, who is a seventh generation farmer. I have a letter, also, from Jonathan Henry, a marine for 18 years, who is a Tennessee native who returned from 12 months in Iraq. His family was given a flat rate for moving costs. Gas is so high, they have had to make cuts in about everything else, he says. He had to forego his family vacation. It is too expensive to go on now. I have letters from Kathy Crowe from Hendersonville, TN; Joseph Rizzo from Townsend, TN, where I live; and Marti Lewis from Pleasantville, TN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the letters be printed in the Record. As we debate high gas prices, and as we hear these stories from Tennesseans and other Americans, let's be clear what we need to do. We all want an energy future where America has achieved clean energy independence, but that is very different than what we have today. But the bridge to that future in a country that uses 25 percent of all the energy in the world is more American energy now. We Republicans support that, and most of the Democrats do not -- which is why they propose more lawsuits and taxes, but no exploration. Just as one example, to conclude: Why not let Virginia do what four other States do and put oil and natural gas rigs 50 miles out where you cannot see them, and take 37.5 percent of the revenues and put it in a trust fund for schools or beach nourishment, give 12.5 percent of the revenues to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and put some more American oil now into the world marketplace so prices would stabilize and begin to go down? I offered that amendment to the Budget Resolution earlier this year. It was defeated 51 to 47. Most Republicans voted for it. Most Democrats voted no. We are for more American energy now, and they say no.