WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following remarks today at a press conference with Rep. John Dingell (MI), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat, Rep. Jim Oberstar, Transportation Committee Ranking Democrat, Rep. Mark Udall (CO), co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, Rep. Stephanie Herseth (SD), co-chair of the House Democratic Rural Working Group and member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, member of the House Transportation Committee and Task Force on Livable Communities, and Rep. Adam Schiff, member of the House International Relations Committee and co-chair/co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security, to introduce the PROGRESS Act:
“Thank you for coming today. Twenty-nine years ago, our 39th President, Jimmy Carter, told the American people during the height of an unprecedented national energy crisis: ‘With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes.’
“Over the ensuing years, we, as a nation, too often failed to make the hard decisions needed to move toward energy independence. And today, we are paying the price – not just at the pump every time we fill our automobiles with gasoline, but also in the continuing degradation of our environment.
“The ‘inconvenient truth,’ as former Vice President Gore has written, is that ‘global warming is real, it is already under way and the consequences are totally unacceptable.’ However, the truth is, Al Gore’s message is not solely a warning. It is an exhortation. It is a call to action. ‘There should be no doubt that we can solve this crisis,’ the former Vice President has stated, if we ‘seize the opportunities presented by renewable energy, by conservation and efficiency [and by addressing] some of the harder but exceedingly important challenges.’
“That is precisely what all of us here intend today, with the introduction of the ‘PROGRESS Act’ – a ‘Program for Real Energy Security.’ This legislation complements other Democratic efforts, such as Leader Pelosi’s Innovation Agenda and our Rural Working Group’s biofuels energy package, and seeks to initiate a robust national program – akin to the Manhattan Project – on energy independence.
“We have worked on this legislation for more than a year, talking not only to Members of our Caucus but also to academics, government officials and industry executives. In addition, I have spoken with Energy Secretary Sam Bodman about many of these proposals.
“The fact is, nearly 70 percent of our nation’s petroleum consumption is for transportation. Consequently, it is simply inconceivable that the President and the Majority Party in Congress have failed to summon our national will, our resources and our ingenuity to make significant gains in technology, conservation and vehicle efficiency, and the use of alternative fuels.
“The PROGRESS Act seeks to fill this dangerous and unacceptable void.
First, it would establish a 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 current average vehicle efficiency and to diversify fuel types.
“Third, this bill would establish a National Biofuels Infrastructure Development Program, establishing a grant program 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.
“Our nation’s energy policy is inextricably linked to our national security, our economic security, and our environmental security. It is past the time when we should have acted, but it is essential that we act now. We can seize the initiative and harness the unique American will and ingenuity that have made the United States the world’s leader in innovation, invention and technology – and thereby achieve real energy independence that results in a stronger economy, more jobs and healthier communities, and affordable power. Or, we can continue on, as we are today, held hostage to events outside of our control, which threaten our national and economic security and our environment.
“This legislation – the PROGRESS Act – will help us develop energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies and produce automobiles and products for the rest of the world, including the burgeoning economies in China and India. I urge all of my colleagues to review this proposal, give us ideas to improve it, and then work together for a Program for Real Energy Security.”