Floor Updates

Bingaman, Merkley

Morning Business

Mar 07 2012

11:25 AM

Senator Bingaman: (10:49 AM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "We do not face these cycles of high gasoline prices because of lack of access to federal resources or because of some environmental regulation that is getting in the way of us obtaining cheap gasoline. As was made clear in a hearing we had in the Senate Energy committee in January, the prices that we are paying for oil and the products refined from oil such as gasoline are set on the world market. They're relatively insensitive to what happens here in the United States with regard to production. Instead, the world price of oil and our gasoline prices are affected more by events beyond our control, such as instability in Libya last year or instability in Iran and concerns about oil supply from Iran this year ... While domestic oil production plays an important role in the energy security in the economy of our country, it's contribution to world oil balance, the world oil balance is not sufficient to bring global oil prices down and for this reason, increased domestic production, unfortunately, will not bring down gasoline prices in our country. We also need to understand the status of domestic production. Here again the facts are often misunderstood. For example, we've heard the claim that the United States and the Obama administration have turned away from producing the domestic oil and gas resources that we possess. Facts are very much to the contrary. At the hearing we had in January in the Energy committee, James Burkehart described our situation in this country as the great revival of U.S. oil production The net change in production of petroleum liquids in the United States and in other major countries between 2008 and 2011, the U.S. increase In production is far greater than that of any other country in the world. The United States is now the third-largest oil producer in the world, after Russia and Saudi Arabia Current increases in oil production are reversing several years of decline in that production. We've not had to change any environmental laws or limit the protections that apply to public lands in order to get these increases U.S. gas production grew by more than 7% in 2011. Our natural gas reserves are such that the United States is expected to become an overall net exporters of natural gas in the next decade. The natural gas inventories are now at record highs. 20% of their level at the same time last year As of last week there were 1,981 rigs actively exploring for or developing oil and natural gas in the United States. The best comparable figure we have for rigs operating internationally is 1,871. This does not include Russia. It does not include China ... The outer continental shelf increased by 30% since 2008. It is now at 589 million barrels in 2010. Annual oil production onshore on federal lands has increased by over eight million barrels between 2008 and 2011. It's now over 111 million barrels of production. Industry has been given access to millions of acres much of either which they have not leased, not chosen to lease, or they have not put into production. In 2009, 53 million acres of the resource-rich central and western Gulf of México were offered for lease. Industry chose to lease only 2.7 million out of that 53 million acres. In 2010, 37 million acres of the gulf were offered. Only 2.4 million acres were actually leased. In that year. In June of 2012, three months from now, the administration will offer another 38 million acres in the central Gulf of Mexico for lease. Interior department estimates that these areas could produce a billion barrels of oil and four trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The administration recently proposed a leasing plan for 2012 through 2017 that would make at least 75% of the undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources on the outer continental shelf available for lease. Even when the industry leases these resources, it often does not move to produce oil or gas from these areas that they've leased. Onshore, out of 38 million acres currently under lease, the industry has about 12 million acres actually producing. Offshore, there are a total of 35 million acres under lease. Six million acres of that is actually in production. As of September 2011, the industry held over 7,000 permits to drill onshore that were not being used ... The total acreage in the outer continental shelf is huge. It's 1.7 billion acres. Much of it does not have oil and gas reserves that can be tapped economically."

Senator Merkley: (11:11 AM)
  • Spoke on Merkley amendment #1653 (exemptions for farm vehicles requirements).
    • SUMMARY "Right now farmers are exempt from certain federal regulations when they transport their products in farm vehicles as long as they're transporting those products inside of their own state but should they venture across state lines, even just by short distance, then the federal regulations are triggered. So you have farmers who are simply trying to get their product to market. Local grain elevator, if you will and they have to cross a state border, and suddenly their challenge becomes very complex indeed. For instance, Oregon farmers who live just across the border from Idaho, in these cases, the best market might be the nearest processing facility just across the state line. These farmers are exactly the same as their counterparts elsewhere, except for one small fact: the processing facility is across the border. This arbitrary distinction can mean major differences in how these farmers and ranchers have to do business in the form of additional burdensome regulations. Things like vehicle inspections for every trip the vehicle takes. or having reporting reports for things like hours of service requirements. or obtaining medical certifications. This amendment would simply make life a little more logical, a little easier for farmers by exempting them from regulations designed for interstate transport, not designed to intervene or interfere when a farmer is trying simply to take his product to market. We put limits in this bill on mileage and limits on purpose to make sure it serves the function intended, to get rid of that arbitrary boundary that creates a regulatory nightmare."
  • Spoke on a Merkley amendment (freight).
    • SUMMARY "A second amendment is related to freight. Now, the underlying bill has a freight program that improves the performance of the national freight network, and that is an excellent proposal. It will help make the improvements that are needed. There are a few technical improvements that would further improve bill. That is to recognize funding should be used in the most effective and efficient way to ensure that high-value goods are being moved quickly to market. We often think of freight in terms of volume or tonnage but when you start looking at the high-tech sector, you can have enormously important high-value content such as that produced by the microchip industry in Oregon and the roads necessary to make sure that freight gets to market, that high-value freight driving a tremendous number of jobs, is just as important to address as is routes that involve high tonnage or high volume."
  • Spoke on Merkley amendment #1599 (Buy America).
    • SUMMARY "We recognize the principle that if we are paying to complete a public infrastructure project in America, it only makes sense for American businesses and workers to do as much of the work as possible but there are several loopholes that have undermined this basic premise in recent years. So amendment #1599 is an amendment that addresses one of these loopholes. This summer construction of a rail bridge in Alaska to a military base will be undertaken by a Chinese company because the federal rail administration, unlike the federal transit and federal highway administrations, doesn't have the "Buy America" provision. An American company was ready to build this bridge, but because of this loophole, the contract went to a Chinese company using Chinese steel. So isn't it frustrating that the infrastructure to provide access to a military base involves the jobs and the steel going across the Pacific Ocean?"