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The Lugar Letter

Lugar Focused on Energy in '08 … at home and abroad

A picture of a gas price signThe price of a barrel of oil was one of the hottest topics from the kitchen table to the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2008. The year started with a barrel of oil costing $92.93 (January 4, 2008) and ended with it costing $38.73 (Dec. 12, 2008) – a price not experienced since January 14, 2005.

But anyone who owns a vehicle knows it was not that simple. On July 11, 2008, a barrel of oil spiked to $147.27 on news of problems with Iranian and Nigerian supplies and labor issues in Brazil. While prices across the country varied, the average price of a gallon of gasoline required so many "4s" that many stations had to improvise with hand written numbers.

In the past year, U.S. Senator Dick Lugar has traveled thousands of miles across the globe and Indiana to meet with leaders, learn about new energy projects and initiate dialogue about renewable fuels. At dozens of venues in Indiana, Washington, D.C. and around the world he called on the next President to make energy security the top priority.


Senator Lugar has been addressing America's dangerous dependence on imported oil for more than a decade. From 1996 to summer 2001, Senator Lugar was Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and held several hearings on renewable energy, the future of U.S. energy supplies, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The New PetroleumIn 1999, he coauthored a prescient article on the need to develop ethanol from cellulosic sources – grasses, agricultural debris, etc. "The New Petroleum," written with former CIA director James Woolsey, appeared in the January/February edition of Foreign Affairs magazine. At a time when oil was $9.76 per barrel and gasoline averaged $0.91 per gallon, Senator Lugar and Jim Woolsey wrote, "Oil is a magnet for conflict … This unwelcome dependence keeps U.S. military forces tied to the Persian Gulf, forces foreign policy compromises, and sinks many developing nations into staggering debt as they struggle to pay for expensive dollar-denominated oil with lower priced commodities and agricultural products. In addition, oil causes environmental conflict. The possibility that greenhouse gases will lead to catastrophic climate change is substantially increased by the 40 million barrels of oil burned every day by vehicles."

In 2000, Senator Lugar authored and passed the Biomass Research and Development Act, which required the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) to coordinate research efforts to promote advancement in energy from biomass production. He also worked with former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) to author a renewable fuels standard that mandated the production of renewable fuels. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) joined Senator Lugar in 2005 and the RFS was signed into law.

Senator Lugar's Energy Legislation A link to Senator Lugar's energy legislation

Energy Security Mission Abroad

Access to reliable energy supplies is at the heart of security concerns for many countries, including the United States. As some nations seek to tighten control over increasingly scarce supplies, oil and natural gas has come to be used for political gain and can be used as a weapon. In 2008, Senator Lugar undertook a three-leg mission to promote energy security that took him from Central Asia, through the southern Caucasus and Europe, and to Russia. The first leg was in January, followed by a leg in August and one in December.

Senator Lugar speaking at the United States Mission to the European Union
Senator Lugar speaking at the United States Mission to
the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.

This mission came at a critical time. The trans-Atlantic alliance has long been a source of stability and prosperity in the world. However, unity in the alliance has come under strain as some countries have struggled to improve their energy security. At the heart of perceived insecurity of energy trade is Russia's monopolistic control over oil and natural gas exports from the Caspian Sea region and its domination of natural gas flows to much of Europe. Russia's energy sector is dominated by government officials in the Kremlin, and in recent years the government has demonstrated a willingness to use Russia's status as an oil and gas powerhouse to influence – and threaten – its neighbors. In fact, at least six European nations have experience politically charged energy cut-offs in the previous two years. 

The absence of a collaborative energy security strategy will lead to greater fragmentation among European nations and across the Atlantic. This fragmentation will not be exclusive to energy policy – it may also detrimentally impact our ability to act upon shared security and economic issues. 

Senator Lugar's three-leg mission promoted unity of purpose in forging a cooperative trans-Atlantic energy security strategy. He vigorously advocated a first priority: completing the so-called East-West energy corridor to bring oil and natural gas across the Caspian Sea from Central Asia to distribution points in Europe. This led to meetings with top government officials in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Germany, France, and the European Union based in Belgium. Opening the East-West energy corridor will be a bulwark against political manipulation of gas/energy supplies in the region by helping to provided diversification of gas supplies to Europe. 

The countries to where Senator Lugar traveled

Opening the East-West corridor should be part of broader cooperative effort to promote new energy technologies – some of which Hoosier institutions are at the cutting edge research.  Biofuels, wind, plug-in vehicles, and clean coal with carbon sequestration will be essential in creating a secure and sustainable energy future on both sides of the Atlantic. These technologies also will enable meaningful efforts to combat the potentially devastating impacts of climatic change.

Back Home Again

From the beginning of the year, Senator Lugar made energy security for Hoosiers a priority. He met with entrepreneurial Hoosiers at the forefront of researching and deploying new energy technologies that have the potential to provide secure, cost effective, and environmentally responsible ways to generate and use energy. Many of these energy businesses are already creating new jobs and sources of revenue to help pay for schools and services in Indiana.

After joining the 76th Brigade Combat Team for their Departure Ceremony at the RCA Dome, Senator Lugar keynoted the first Indiana Renewable Energy Forum at IUPUI. His speech challenged the presidential candidates to make energy security a top priority in their campaigns.

In his speech, Senator Lugar said, "energy is the issue with the widest gulf between what is required to make our nation secure and what is likely to be achieved through the inertia of existing programs and Congressional proposals … transformational energy policies are likely to be a requirement for achieving our economic and social aspirations here at home … energy is the underlying condition that exacerbates almost every major foreign policy issue."

He also called on our next president to take our energy security seriously. "The next President must demand that research projects related to battery technology, cellulosic ethanol, carbon capture and storage, solar and wind power, and dozens of other technologies receive the highest priority within the Administration … We must be very clear that energy security is a political problem. The United States has the financial resources, scientific prowess, productive land, and industrial infrastructure to address our energy vulnerability. The question is whether we will heed abundant warning signs and apply the political will to deal with this problem in the present rather than suffering grave consequences in the future."

Senator Lugar at Enerdel
Senator Lugar riding in a Toyota Prius powered by an
EnerDel Lithium-ion battery.

The following month Senator Lugar met with officials at EnerDel to learn about advanced battery technology. In June, Senator Lugar concluded Grassroots Green's "Need to Go Green" conference in Fort Wayne, focusing on the national security and environmental side of energy security.

In July Senator Lugar toured newly built "green homes" constructed by Castalia Homes, to whom he presented a Lugar Energy Patriot Award. President Frank Redavide has built several green homes around Central Indiana.

Indiana is fortunate to have an incredible network of colleges and universities that often work together on large projects and coordinate their research. In October, Senator Lugar met with students, researchers and officials at Purdue University Calumet, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University West Lafayette, and IUPUI.

Purdue University Calumet's Lugar Visclosky Energy Forum and Expo on October 7 provided an exciting opportunity for Hoosiers and individuals from across the country to display renewable and sustainable energy technology. Senator Lugar opened the forum with a speech stating that energy security should be the foremost target for new investment in the United States.

"Whoever is sworn in as President of the United States in 2009 must commit to elevating energy security to the status of a core national goal, and he must directly engage all the American people in the solution. If the next President addresses energy through a familiar ideological prism, the chance to strengthen U.S. national security and economic prosperity will be lost. To succeed, the President must be more than thoughtful and attentive to energy concerns. The President must be relentless. He must be willing to have his Administration judged according to its success or failure on this issue," Senator Lugar said in his speech.

Senator Lugar with Dr. Robert Kramer, the Director of the energy center at Purdue Calumet.

At the University of Notre Dame on October 8, Senator Lugar met with the President, student leaders and learned about projects underway at the Energy Center.

Senator Lugar at the Notre Dame Energy Center
Senator Lugar at the Notre Dame Energy Center.

In the President's Office, Senator Lugar and Fr. John Jenkins discussed the role universities can play in educating students on the importance of sustainability and reducing the amount of energy they consume. They also discussed how students can teach administrators, referencing how the student group GreeND initiated a now campus-wide recycling project during home football game weekends.

Having learned about the endeavor from a past student intern, Senator Lugar awarded GreeND with a Lugar Energy Patriot later that afternoon. The award recognizes a student, professional, scholar, or member of the business community who has demonstrated leadership and initiative in taking concrete action to improve America's energy security.

At the Notre Dame Energy Center, Senator Lugar learned about research projects focusing on carbon sequestration that may advance usage of clean coal and efforts by students to convert a traditional motorcycle into a hybrid and improve energy efficiency at the Indiana Dunes.

Senator Lugar long has extolled the benefits of renewable fuels, both for our energy security and rural economies. Indiana's diverse climates and topography, combined with Hoosier ingenuity, open the possibilities for renewable energy in nearly every corner of the state.

A wind farm in Benton County IndianaThe following day, Senator Lugar made a return trip to Benton County to see Indiana's first operation wind farm and another under construction. Benton County is one of the few areas in Indiana that experiences sufficient wind speed to power wind turbines. Additionally, local farmers lease the small plots of land to the wind farm for supplemental income.

The Benton County Wind Farm is the state's first operational wind farm. Senator Lugar met with officials in 2006 as they were planning construction and marveled at the finished product. The wind turbines are large structures that can be seen from a significant distance and most are positioned in the middle of corn and soybean fields. The farm's 87 turbines will produce 130 megawatts when they reach full capacity.

The Fowler Ridge Wind Farm spans nearly 50,000 acres and is under construction near Fowler, Indiana. The first phase calls for the construction of more than 200 wind turbines. Senator Lugar took a bus tour of the expansive operation and saw a turbine under construction.

After Benton County, Senator Lugar continued on to Purdue University West Lafayette where he met with President France Cordova and visited with scientists, students and entrepreneurs at Purdue's Research and Discovery Parks.

Senator Lugar with Dr. Nancy Ho
Senator Lugar with Dr. Nancy Ho.

While corn ethanol is currently the dominant ethanol option, the cellulosic ethanol that he has been talking about since 1999 could have an tremendous impact on Indiana's economy. At Discovery Park Dr. Mike Ladisch discussed his research with cellulosic ethanol and the different processes they work with to improve the energy efficiency of different biomass products. Dr. Nancy Ho, a Lugar Energy Patriot, continued the discussion on cellulosic ethanol and discussed her research projects. Senator Lugar then walked over to Discovery Park's Energy Center for a presentation about soybeans and their use in biofuels by Dr. Bernie Tao.

Senator Lugar also met with and toured Purdue's new Birck Nanotechnology Center at Discovery Park. He first visited the Center two years ago when it was just being completed, and on this return trip gained first-hand experience in world class nanotech research on solar power, conductivity, and other energy areas.

Following Discovery Park, Senator Lugar went to the Purdue's Research Park, Business & Technology Center and met with John and Mary Rusek who own Swift Enterprises. Swift has developed and sells a biofuel derived from cellulosic sources for privately owned, non-jet aircraft.

Senator Lugar at Cardinal Ethanol
Senator Lugar at Cardinal Ethanol.

That weekend, Senator Lugar joined with IndyGo, the IUPUI Lugar Center for Renewable Energy and Indianapolis Power & Light on Monument Circle in Indianapolis to highlight municipal hybrid transportation options. IndyGo, Indianapolis' public transportation bus system has hybrid buses and support vehicles.

In November Senator Lugar joined Patriot Awardee Rob Lykins in his home town of Union City for the ceremonial delivery of the first-in-the-nation hybrid electric school bus. Rob is president of PCI, a company located in Union City that specializes in converting commercial vehicles to hybrid electric, propane or national gas. PCI worked tirelessly with the Department of Education and Indiana State Police to ensure the converted bus met all safety specifications. Following the delivery ceremony, Senator Lugar stopped by the Cardinal Ethanol Plant just outside of Union City to meet with officials and learn about their experiences with the newly operating plant.

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