WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, pointed to the deficiencies in five bills currently being considered by the Energy and Commerce Committee.  The Republican legislation claims to explore alternative fuels while educating consumers and manufacturers of energy developments. With exorbitant prices at the gas pump, and record high oil industry profits,  the Republican energy package offers only empty gestures that fail to address the root causes of what the President has called America’s oil addiction.

“Making a real impact on our nation’s dependency on foreign oil will only come with a significant increase in fuel economy standards for all cars and SUVs,” said Rep. Markey, who along with Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), has repeatedly pushed for a vote on legislation to increase CAFÉ standards, a measure which is not currently included in the bills being marked up in the Committee this week.

Rep. Markey’s Statement follows:

“Mr. Chairman, today the Committee is marking up five minor energy bills.  Now, I’ve been told that these bills are being marked up in the Committee this week in anticipation of the House Republican Leadership bringing them up next week in a planned, “Energy Week.”  Well, energy weak – “W-E-A-K” – is the perfect description of this package. I would say this package is so weak that it will not fill an energy hour, let alone a week. The President says we are addicted to oil.  These bills are like telling a prescription drug addict to ease up on the ibuprofen but keep the codeine coming. We need bold action – not another education campaign.  

“First, there’s a bill that would earmark monies collected from violations of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Program for a grant program to expand the availability of alternative fuels.  So, while this Committee remains unwilling to do anything meaningful to actually increase fuel economy standards, we are willing to devote the relatively small amount of money that comes in to Treasury in the form of fines to be used for alternative fuel development.  

“Just a few days ago, James Mulva, the CEO of ConocoPhillips, called for higher fuel economy standards.  You would think that the oil companies would be the last to admit that such a step is long overdue. But no – it is this Committee and the Bush Administration who are vying for that dubious distinction.  When we marked up a fuel economy bill several weeks ago, the Committee rejected my amendment to increase CAFE standards to 33 miles per gallon; a level that experts say is easily achievable.  I’ve heard that even the Committee’s inadequate bill won’t be brought up for a Floor vote.  

“Second, there’s a bill on tire fuel efficiency consumer education that will educate consumers about the fuel efficiency of the replacement tires they buy for their cars.  That’s just great.  However, in last year’s energy conference we actually had a Senate-passed provision that would have established a national tire fuel efficiency program.  This provision, contained in Section 143 of the Senate-passed bill, was rejected by the House conferees and not included in the final Energy Policy Act conference report.  It would have required that the average fuel economy of replacement tires be equal to or better than the fuel economy of the original tires sold with the vehicle.  It would have also provided for testing and consumer labeling procedures, and adoption of policies aimed at promoting the purchase of energy efficient tires.  But the Republican-controlled House wasn’t willing to embrace that kind of common sense measure last year, and all they are willing to do this year is authorize an “education program.”

“Third, we have a bill to create a “Fuel Consumption Education Program.”  This new program would provide for (quote) “a public education campaign that provides information to United States drivers about immediate measures that may be taken to conserve transportation fuel.”  The bill goes on to say that, “The education campaign shall include television, print, Internet website, or any other method designed to maximize the dissemination of transportation fuel savings information to drivers.”

“I have some good news for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.  The Department of Energy is already doing what this bill calls for.  If you go to http://www.fueleconomy.gov/ you will find a whole series of helpful suggestions on how to conserve gasoline.  These include:  observing the speed limit, removing excess weight from the vehicle, avoiding excessive idling, keeping your engine tuned, checking and replacing air filters, keeping tires properly inflated, and using the recommended grade of motor oil.  DOE is already doing what this bill calls for.  So, while I’m not opposed to the bill, I’m not sure why it’s necessary.

“Fourth, we have a bill to study and promote the use of energy efficient computer servers.  This bill calls for EPA to do a 90-day study of data centers and the energy efficiency of the computer servers they use, and the potential for energy savings if industry and the government moved to use of more energy efficient technology.  That’s a fine idea, and one that I support.  I must point out, however, that we are now nearly six years into the Bush Administration and there is now a backlog of 18 delayed new or revised appliance efficiency standards over at the DOE.  In fact, the only final, completed energy efficiency standards rulemaking issued by this Administration to date was an attempted rollback of a Clinton-era standard on central air conditioners.  

“Now, the Administration submitted a report to the Congress back in February in response to my amendment in the Energy bill on the status of delayed energy efficiency standards, and that report projects that first “high priority” Bush energy efficiency standard needed to dig out of the backlog won’t be issued until September 2007.  The last of the backlogged standards won’t be issued until 2011, and won’t go into effect until 2016.  So, while its nice to have this little report on computer server efficiency, if we really wanted to do something useful we’d be directing DOE to further accelerate its standards-setting program so that American can start using technology to reduce the amount of electricity consumed by a wide array of consumer and commercial appliances.

“Fifth, we have a bill to promote U.S. energy cooperation with the State of Israel.  A nice idea, and I’m a big supporter of closer U.S.-ties with Israel, but let’s face it – Israel is the one country in the Middle East that doesn’t have any oil or natural gas!  As the bill itself recognizes, the U.S. actually began a program of energy cooperation with Israel under former Secretary Hazel O’Leary, so while this is a nice idea, there’s really not that all that much that is new here.

“In fact, when I look over the list of the bills before us today, I am reminded of what Gertrude Stein said in 1937 when she was asked what she thought of Oakland, California, where she spent her childhood.  She replied, “There is no there, there.”  So, if you’re looking for the House Republican energy policy in the bills before the Committee today, sorry friends, there is simply no there there.”

For more information on Congressman Markey’s efforts relating to energy policy go to: http://markey.house.gov.

June 20, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein
or Jeff Duncan