WASHINGTON, DC – Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) gave the following remarks at a press conference today unveiling the PROGRESS Act, where he was joined by several co-sponsors, including some of the House Democrats’ veteran and freshman Members. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you for coming. Just seven weeks ago, as part of House Democrats’ 100 Hours Agenda, we passed the CLEAN Energy Act, which would redirect billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies making record profits and toward investments in future energy resources, developing renewable energy, alternative fuels, and conservation and efficiency programs. I said then that the CLEAN Act was a down payment on the promise of a new energy future for our country, and the first step in moving our nation’s energy policy in a new direction.
“Today, I am pleased to be here with some of our Democratic veterans, as well as some of our new Members, to unveil the PROGRESS Act – or Program for Real Energy Security – and to demonstrate our continuing commitment on an issue that is absolutely critical to America’s national, economic and environmental security.
“The PROGRESS Act complements other Democratic efforts on energy, such as Speaker Pelosi’s Innovation Agenda and our Rural Working Group’s biofuels energy package. And in short, it would initiate a robust national program – akin to the Manhattan Project on energy independence.
“First, it would establish a bipartisan National Energy Security Commission, bringing together government, industry and academic leaders to develop consensus national goals on energy – which Congress must act upon under expedited rules.
“Second, it would establish a New Manhattan Center for High Efficiency Vehicles, seeking to double the average vehicle efficiency and to diversify fuel types.
“Third, this bill would establish a National Biofuels Infrastructure Development Program, providing grants to encourage the private sector to invest in wholesale and retail biofuel pumps, tanks and related distribution equipment.
“Fourth, it calls for a stimulus package to upgrade the “pipeline” for biofuels – the freight rail system – while also providing grants to promote conservation alternatives such as public transit and commuter rail.
“And fifth, this bill would increase the use of alternative fuels in federal fleets. The federal government is one of the leading owners of vehicle fleets and consumers of petroleum products, and it must lead by example.
“As some of you may recall, I introduced virtually identical legislation last July after a year of extensive discussions with Members of our Caucus, academics, government officials – including Energy Secretary Sam Bodman – and industry executives. One hundred and twenty-nine Members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors last year, including key committee chairmen such as John Dingell, Jim Oberstar, Ike Skelton and Bart Gordon. This year, we already have 100 co-sponsors and believe there will be even more support for the bill, which we will introduce next week.
“Now, before I recognize my colleagues who are here today, let me close by saying that 30 years ago, during an unprecedented national energy crisis, President Carter said: “With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes.” Because our nation has too often failed to make the hard decisions needed to move toward energy independence, President Carter’s admonition is as relevant today as it was back then. We simply cannot ignore our addiction to foreign sources of oil any longer.
“Yes, we should have acted over the past three decades. But our failure to do so makes it even more essential that we do so now – for our energy security, and to begin to address the reality of global warming.
“In challenge, there is great opportunity. We must seize the initiative – as past generations of Americans have done – and harness the unique American ingenuity that has made us the world leader in innovation, invention and technology. If we do, we can achieve real energy independence that strengthens our national security, boosts our economy, creates more jobs and protects our environment for future generations.
“This legislation – the PROGRESS Act – is another important step in the effort to move America toward energy independence. I urge all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to review this proposal, to give us ideas to improve it, and then to work together for a Program for Real Energy Security.”