Dole Calls For Comprehensive Energy Strategy, End to Partisan Wrangling

July 31st, 2008 - Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole took to the Senate floor to encourage her colleagues to lay partisan politics aside and develop a comprehensive solution to high gas prices and dependence on foreign oil based on, “conservation, alternative energy, exploration and market fairness.”

Dole’s remarks are as follows:

The federal government has more acronyms for more federal agencies that produce more economic statistics than anyone can reasonably be expected to comprehend in a single sitting. We have the Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis…just to name a few.

These agencies produce a wealth of information that we use to inform our policy decisions with facts and expert analysis; but I often find that the best advice I get on matters of public policy comes not from these experts and their reports, but from the wisdom and sincerity of North Carolinians who write to me.

I received a letter recently that I think gets to the heart of our energy debate here in the Senate. It comes from a retiree who is living on a fixed income from his life savings, who resides in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, a picturesque mountain town of 3,000 situated on a pristine mountain lake. In fact, I used to go to church camp there every summer when I was growing up.

“Too much energy,” the letter reads, “has gone into rhetoric and not enough into actually doing something about it. We have so many brilliant leaders and the ability to make major transformations, so let’s concentrate on action and do whatever it takes to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

My friend from Lake Junaluska is right. Indeed, too much energy in this energy debate has been spent on partisan rhetoric, and not enough on delivering real solutions to provide Americans with relief from these record high gas prices.

Both sides bring important and worthwhile ideas to this debate. On one side, we see a focus on conservation and cracking down on alleged bad behavior in the energy market. On the other side, we hear more about energy exploration.

There is no “silver bullet” that can solve our energy woes. We need EVERY option – every option – on the table. We need to throw everything AND the kitchen sink at our energy crisis. Conservation. Alternative energy. Energy exploration. Market fairness.

There’s no reason we can’t develop a comprehensive strategy that includes the best ideas from both sides of the debate.

The bottom line is that high gas prices are driven by too much demand and too little supply. Last year, global demand exceeded global supply by roughly one million barrels per day. Because of that, families in my home state of North Carolina are having to pay 30 percent more to fill their tanks than they did just one year ago.

To truly solve this problem, we’ve got to tackle both the demand side and the supply side. We need to find more and use less.

On the demand side, we need to make major investments in alternative energy research and take a crash course in conservation.

That’s why I introduced legislation last week to repeal roughly $17 billion in tax breaks to oil companies, and pour that funding into alternative energy research. With the price per barrel of oil at record highs, the market is providing petroleum producers all the incentive they should need to produce more oil. So, that funding would be better spent by investing in alternative sources of energy that are the key to our energy future.

In the near term, we could also help decrease demand by incentivizing the purchase of hybrid and other clean fuel vehicles with point of sale rebates and by investing in better transit systems.

While decreasing demand and investing in alternative and renewable forms of energy is certainly a necessary part of any comprehensive energy solution, it is by no means sufficient. We cannot simply conserve our way to energy independence.

We must also increase supply by making better use of America’s vast energy resources. We should open up 2,000 out of 19.6 million acres in ANWR, in Alaska, to energy exploration. We should capitalize on our immense oil shale reserves, which could produce three times as much oil as Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves. And we should also allow the states decide whether or not to permit offshore energy exploration at least 50 miles off their shores on the Outer Continental Shelf, where we could gain access to billions of barrels of oil.

Of course, some will argue that bringing these energy resources online will take years to complete, and won’t help provide the immediate relief that folks need. But, if anything, that means we cannot afford to let another day pass without pursuing them.

After all, if President Clinton had not vetoed legislation in 1995 to allow energy exploration in ANWR, our current energy shortfall would already be reduced by roughly one million barrels per day.

To provide immediate relief, we can release one-third of the strategic petroleum reserve to inject some much-needed supply into the markets, which will drive prices down in the near term and send a signal to market speculators that the American government is dead serious about lowering gas prices.

Because of enormous and unprecedented economic growth in developing countries like India and China, it is imperative that in this debate we keep our eyes fixed firmly – firmly – on the ultimate goal of ending our dependence on foreign sources of oil altogether. Facing an ever-dwindling global supply of oil and ever-increasing global demand for energy, this is not a goal or a debate that we can take lightly. When it comes to securing America’s energy future, partisan politics need not apply.

To lower gas prices and reach our ultimate goal of energy independence, we need every option on the table – everything and the kitchen sink.