Domenici: Reverse Decades of Bad Policies to Move U.S. Energy Future Forward

Senator Says Foreign Energy Dependence Diminishes American Security & Way of Life

HOBBS, N.M. – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today said the United States must reverse decades of bad energy policy decisions in order to move forward and address the energy challenges that are diminishing the American way of life—and squandering the freedoms gained by those remembered across the nation in Memorial Day tributes.

Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Tuesday evening addressed the nation’s energy challenges at the close of a New Mexico Center for Energy Policy (NMCEP) conference titled “The Making of Energy Policy: Where Are We Going?” Domenici, who will retire in 2009, was also presented with the National Energy Policy Leadership Award from NMCEP.

“We owe it to the men and women who we honored yesterday to do something in a real way—in a big way—to address the energy challenges that we face. We owe it to them to reduce our nation’s great dependence on foreign oil, which undermines the great sacrifices they made to sustain this nation’s liberty and ensure its survival,” Domenici said.

“Without question, the challenges we face are daunting. Our dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic strength, our foreign policy, and our national security. We must find a way to meet rising global demand with an affordable, reliable supply of energy. At the same time, we are faced with the question of how best to address global climate change without damaging our economy. As we face these growing concerns, we also find our nation staggered by a falling dollar, rising commodity prices, and a growing trade deficit. Simply put: these are the challenges of a generation, and they are without precedent,” he said.

"To resolve these challenges and to avoid the worst of their consequences will require the best minds we have, as well as massive investments of time, resources and money,” he said. “Our biggest obstacle may prove to be the most fundamental: our conventional thinking today is inadequate to achieve what we must.”

Domenici called for the reversal of the 1970s edict halting spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, the 1980s congressional ban on deep sea energy resource exploration, the 1990s decision stopping energy exploration in a small segment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and a 2007 moratorium on commercialization of U.S. oil shale.

These actions, he maintained, would begin undoing policies that restrict the development of U.S.-owned energy resources and sap American economic strength as “an unprecedented transfer of wealth” is made to the Middle East and other energy producing foreign powers.

"We have the oil shale reserves, the oil and gas resources, and the coal-to-liquids potential to send a message that will shake the princes in the Middle East. But, to achieve this we cannot keep locking up our lands and preventing domestic industry from unleashing its energy potential. It is clear that approach has failed. And it has failed with serious consequences. It has ensured our heavy dependence on foreign adversaries and, at the same time, led to near-record energy prices,” Domenici said.

“We can meet our challenges if we first acknowledge them. We live in a world with very little spare production capacity, in large part because the gap between our consumption and production has grown from a crack to a canyon,” he said.

Domenici commended those promoting a “Manhattan Project” or “Apollo Program” to address American energy and national security problems.

“This time, we do not seek a one-time goal to develop the first atom bomb or to land the first man on the moon. Instead we seek a fundamental, long-lasting shift in how our nation powers its economy,” Domenici said.

Domenici said Congress has made progress in recent years by passing three major energy bills passed in 2005, 2006 and 2007 that have rejuvenated American nuclear power, opened new areas of the Gulf of Mexico to exploration, improved U.S. vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and instituted a push toward cellulosic ethanol.

The veteran lawmaker also highlighted promising technologies that could dramatically shift energy consumption in the United States, including research on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and advanced batteries.

While applauding clean energy loan guarantees created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Domenici said government-backed investments in innovative energy technologies are insufficient to meet the nation’s needs. He promoted his Clean Energy Bank legislation to create a self-funding bank as an incentive for greater industry investment in clean energy development.