WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of three energy bills that work to address record gas prices:
“Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank Chairman Oberstar for his hard work and leadership in bringing this important legislation to the Floor.
“There is no stronger proponent of rail service and mass transit than Jim Oberstar. And, that is a tribute to his vision and his wisdom.
“This bill – as well as the other two bills considered on the Floor today on drilling and market speculation – is a clear recognition by this House majority that America’s energy policy cannot be one dimensional.
“And, these bills – taken together, and when combined with the other actions taken by the majority on energy – are a clear rejection of the Republicans’ superficial and failed one-note mantra of drill, drill, drill.
“Let no one be mistaken: Democrats do not oppose drilling.
“All we are saying – and as I will explain in more detail shortly – is that the oil and gas companies should drill on the 68 milion acres of land currently under lease before seeking more drillng rights.
“Now, as to Chairman Oberstar’s bill, it will give Americans relief from four-dollar per gallon gas prices and encourage the use of mass transit. It authorizes $1.7 billion over the next two years to provide grants to mass transit authorities to reduce public transit fares and will help transit agencies deal with escalating costs.
“In just the first three months of this year, Americans took almost 85 million more trips on public transit than in the same period the year before. Public transit reduces America’s oil consumption as well as carbon dioxide emissions.
“Likewise, the legislation on market speculation introduced by Chairman Peterson and Congressman Van Hollen is an effort by this majority to address this issue – record high gas prices – from another angle.
“The Bush Administration insists that the spike in gas prices is not attributable to market speculation.
“Experts strongly disagree. Here, for example, is what billionaire investor George Soros has said: ‘The crude oil market [has] been significantly affected by speculation.’
“The legislation that we will vote on shortly simply directs the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its full authority and emergency tools to curtail excessive speculation and other practices distorting the energy market.
“Finally, about Chairman Rahall’s bill, let me simply say: What could be more common-sensical than saying to the oil and gas companies that they must drill on the 68 million acres of federal land currently under lease, or lose those leases.
“This bill simply says to the oil companies: be diligent in the development of what you have or lose the lease to someone who will produce.
“Let no one be mistaken: 92.2 million acres of federal land and waters have been leased to oil and gas companies.
“According to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 68 million acres of those federal land and waters – or 74% of what we have already leased -- are not producing oil and gas.
“Our Republican friends also have charged that we are keeping the best lands out of the hands of the oil and gas companies. That is not the case. In fact, 81% of estimated oil and gas resources on federal lands and the OCS are available for development.
“And here perhaps is the most important fact: These resources are equal to 107 billion barrels of oil and 658 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That is 10 times the amount of the economically recoverable oil that could be produced from opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and more than 14 years of current U.S. oil consumption (7.5 billion barrels per year).
“Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me say that there is no silver bullet to addressing our energy needs and record high gas prices.
“But the bills we are considering on this House Floor today are key components of a comprehensive energy strategy that seeks to provide Americans with relief at the gas pump, while weaning our nation from its dangerous addiction to foreign oil.
“I urge my colleagues: Vote for these important bills. When it comes to energy, let’s take our nation in a new direction.”