Alexander Tells Nashville Food Bank He Voted Against Congress Going Home Without Dealing With $4 Gas Prices

August 6th, 2008 - Nashville, Tenn. - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in Nashville today that he voted against the Senate adjourning without addressing $4 per gallon gasoline.

“I voted against adjournment because the Senate should never have gone home without dealing with $4 per gallon gasoline prices. The American people expect Congress to take action, not take a vacation. I voted consistently for two weeks to get the Senate to deal with this problem and keep other legislation off the floor. The sooner we authorize offshore oil drilling and make it easier for Americans to drive plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles the sooner we’ll stop sending billions a year overseas to hostile countries, and that will help us get gas prices down.”

Alexander outlined his proposals for dealing with high gas prices with Jaynee Day, President and CEO of the Nashville-based Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is one of the largest food banks nationwide, delivering over 37.4 million pounds of food to needy men, women and children last year, but as food and fuel costs are rising and demand is growing, Second Harvest has been feeling the pinch.

Ms. Day told Senator Alexander, “I’ve been working with Second Harvest for 20 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad. We’ve seen a 10 percent increase in need for our programs as more and more people are having to seek out food banks on a more permanent basis. But as the need is rising, it’s getting more difficult to accommodate everyone. Our fuel costs alone have more than doubled since last year – we are projecting spending $150,000 just in fuel to get food out to people. Furthermore, we rely on donations for most of our food, and since families are having to cut back at home, we have seen a significant decline in donations. We’ve had to go out and buy more food to distribute, and with food costs rising too, it’s getting to be very hard.”

Alexander noted that “Tennesseans across the state have been feeling the pinch of rising fuel and food costs, and Congress needs to take action immediately to address these concerns. Increased funding for food assistance programs in the Farm Bill is a good start.”

The 2008 Farm Bill, which Alexander supported and which became law in June, included an additional $92 million in annual spending for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that buys and distributes food to states. Alexander said that measures in the Farm Bill would also “reduce the tax credit for corn ethanol and give a more generous tax credit to produce cellulosic ethanol made from ingredients like switchgrass. It shifts the focus from crops that we eat to crops that we don't eat.”

Alexander has joined other senators to introduce the Gas Price Reduction Act (S. 3202) which would support energy production like offshore drilling and nuclear power while promoting less reliance on foreign oil though the development of plug-in vehicles. Specifically, the bill would:

• “Find More” – increasing American oil production by one-third through offshore exploration and western states oil shale (3 million new barrels a day).
• “Use Less” – reducing imported oil by one-third by making it easier for millions of Americans to drive plug-in electric cars and trucks (4 million barrels of oil savings a day). The bill also encourages the government to increase its purchases of electric vehicles.

Alexander also said that the bipartisan proposal unveiled last week by the “Gang of 10” was another step in the right direction: "These are the right ideas: plug-in cars and trucks, conservation and producing more American energy,” Alexander said. “The Senate should take up these bipartisan recommendations as soon as we reconvene in September, improve them and make them law. Senator Corker has rendered a real service by his participation in this working group."

Alexander said, “I will continue to take stories like Ms. Day’s to the Senate floor in Washington as I have been doing each week with some of the hundreds of letters and emails I receive about how high gas prices are hurting Tennesseans.”