Johanns Pushes For Increased Domestic Energy Production

Senator Mike Johanns today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the dangers of continued dependence on foreign energy sources and the need to increase domestic energy production. Specifically, Johanns outlined the need to explore and develop energy resources onshore as well as offshore in areas such as the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Johanns is concerned that the Administration is simply delaying domestic energy exploration, thus extending U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"Americans have not forgotten the sting of four-dollar gas prices, and we remain as dependent on foreign oil as ever. We cannot continue to say 'no, no, no' to domestic energy exploration," Johanns said. "Last year we sent nearly half a trillion dollars overseas to pay for our energy needs, money we could be investing here at home. With an abundance of environmentally-sound energy options here at home, it is critical that we begin to explore and expand our domestic production."

Fast Facts About U.S. Domestic Energy Sources:
• The United States imported about 4.7 billion barrels of oil in 2008. Using an average price of $100 per barrel, Americans shipped about $470 billion overseas-in 2008 alone.
• Congressional Leadership announced last week that the U.S. Capitol complex power plant will switch from coal to natural gas as its energy source.
     o Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said of the switch, "The Congress of the United States should not only be a model for the nation, but also a good neighbor...Moving the Capitol Power Plant from the 19th century to the 21st century is a crucial step."
     o Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added that using natural gas "shows that the House and Senate are leading by example in reducing our emissions."
     o Yet in February, the Administration canceled 77 leases for natural gas development in Utah.
• Since the early 1980s, federal moratoria have prevented energy exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
     o Energy prices peaked last July, and the Congressional moratorium was lifted in the fall. However, in February of this year the Administration announced an additional delay in providing rules for OCS exploration and development.
• Also in February, the Administration withdrew leases for research and development of oil shale on federal lands in Colorado and Utah.
     o These oil shale resources are estimated to be equivalent to 800 billion barrels of oil.

Senator Johanns' Remarks As Prepared for Delivery:

"Mr. President, I rise today to discuss some of the energy issues currently facing the American economy. First among them is our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Last summer, we all experienced the consequences of serving the foreign masters that control most of the oil that we consume. In July, oil prices climbed to just under $150 dollars per barrel. Policy-makers wrung their hands and scrambled while Americans tried to control their frustration.

"So what did Americans see? They saw prices rising uncontrollably on the global petroleum market. And that was painful for families. At the same time, some at least started to realize that we have abundant reserves right here at home. But these reserves have been actively blocked by federal policy for more than 20 years.

"And just how import dependent are we? Well, last year we imported about 4.7 billion barrels of oil. Based on an average price of $100 per barrel, Americans shipped about $470 billion dollars overseas - almost a half a trillion dollars. And that was for calendar year 2008 ALONE. We need to address this problem by expanding every domestic energy source in an environmentally responsible way.

"This strategy should include clean and renewable sources. But, you might ask, why raise this issue now? That was last summer, and this year prices are down some. I raise this issue now to note to Nebraskans and to my Senate colleagues that even though prices have relented, our exposure to foreign oil markets has not changed much. That alarms me, and it should alarm my colleagues.

"Mr. President, I fear the American people are getting set up again. Unfortunately, United States policy on domestic sources of energy has not changed much. For too long, federal policy on domestic energy sources has consisted of three words, No, No, and No. Unfortunately, since this administration has taken office, we've seen evidence of more of the same -- more of the same tired policies of No, No, and No.

"First, the Administration in February canceled 77 leases for natural gas development in Utah. Can we turn our backs on a domestic resource as critical as this one? We know that natural gas is clean relative to other fossil fuels-we know that demand for natural gas is only going to increase. Look no farther that the Capitol's own power plant. The Speaker of the House and our own Majority Leader announced on Friday we will no longer burn coal to heat the Capitol complex buildings and water. The preferred alternative? Natural gas.

"Most troubling perhaps, we know that natural gas is not easily transported, so increasing demand translates very quickly into increased price where additional supply is not available. This is especially true for fertilizer and other industrial uses of natural gas.

"So, Mr. President, for the good of our farmers, for the good of our manufacturers, and for the good of our nation, we need to find more domestic sources of natural gas. If the Administration says NO to Utah, what about energy exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf, known as the OCS.

"Since the early 80s, there had been in place a federal moratorium of one sort or another on exploration in the OCS. Essentially, most of the federal waters of the Atlantic and California coasts were off-limits to energy development. This is worth repeating: for more than 20 years, federal policy blocked energy exploration in many OCS areas. Finally, last year, in the face of $4 dollar gasoline, the moratorium on OCS exploration was lifted. Unfortunately, it appears to have been a short-lived victory.

"In February, the Administration announced a delay in the rules for exploration and utilization of the natural gas and crude oil off our shores. The Administration assures us that the delay is only to pave the way for "wise decisions." But to a savvy American public, it sounds like more of the same - no, no, and no or at least delay, delay, and delay some more. Especially when they hear that the same script was used for oil shale leases.

"That's right, the Administration in February also withdrew leases for research and development of oil shale on federal lands in Colorado and Utah -- where our oil shale resources are equivalent to about 800 billion barrels of oil. The reason? According to the Administration, the leases had "several flaws." Their promise? The Administration would offer a new round of oil shale leases for research and development. I take the Administration at its word, but again, doesn't this start to sound like a broken record? Delay, delay, delay.

"So Americans, Nebraskans, and this Senator cannot be faulted for being a little bit skeptical - for thinking that the most recent delays are simply more of the same. The day will return - perhaps in the not too distant future - when fuel prices shoot up. Promises that the Administration is doing everything it can may ring hollow.

"Americans will know that 77 leases for natural gas exploration were cancelled. Americans will know that OCS and oil shale development and exploration was delayed, again. Meanwhile, their commutes aren't getting any shorter...their electricity bills aren't going down...fertilizer and food prices continue to increase.

"There has been a lot of talk from the Administration about ending our dependence on foreign oil. I welcome the sentiment. But so far, the Administration's actions do NOT match its promises. The Administration's only comprehensive policy document-- their budget outline-- contains no effort to increase domestic production of critical oil and natural gas resources. Instead, the proposal raises taxes on the consumption of energy, spends a small fraction of the revenue on energy research, and claims it is the strategy to end our dependence on foreign oil. So again, we see a policy of saying NO to domestic energy sources.

"Research and development in this field is a good thing-actually a great thing-but we'd better be honest with the American people. They deserve better than a bait and switch. We cannot promise a plan to end our dependence on foreign energy, but give them the President's proposal to reach into their back pockets to take control of more of their money. With an abundant - largely untapped - supply here at home, surely the Administration can do better than to say their best idea is to restrict demand through an energy tax. That's essentially telling Americans "look, your best bet is to buy a sweater because you won't be able to heat your home."

"Mr. President, I'm going to end where I started: I'm worried and Nebraskans are frustrated by a policy of saying "No" to American energy. I am in favor of the expansion of domestic sources of energy of all sorts -- wind, solar, wave and tidal, geothermal, alternative biofuels, and nuclear. But I'm also for expanding domestic sources of natural gas and crude oil. It simply makes no sense to buy from abroad - indeed to beg for more oil at times - when we have made it a matter of federal policy to place our own resources off-limits.

"So I will be watchful. The President will send up his budget this week. We will see if he demonstrates a commitment to bringing online American natural gas and oil resources. And we will watch and see if the Administration continues the policies of NO when it comes to energy produced right here at home."