Hastert Comments on Energy Bill

Ties legislation to gas-price relief

WASHINGTON --After the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 by a vote of 249 to 183, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said, American consumers are being hit hard at the gas pump right now. The legislation we passed today will go a long way towards giving our nation the sound, comprehensive energy policy that will create the jobs our citizens need and deserve.

Our nation is too dependent on a fickle foreign oil market that's being stretched to the limit by global demands. The evidence can be seen at gas stations [image-nocss] across the United States. Recently, the national average price of gasoline hit an all-time high of $2.28 a gallon. Oil prices, at one point, jumped to almost $58 a barrel. Analysts forecast a higher spike to $60 soon, he said.

Hastert continued: In some parts of the country, like the West Coast, gas has jumped to more than $2.50 for a gallon of unleaded. The House has passed energy legislation three times. Each time it has been blocked for partisan gamesmanship. Meanwhile, families are finding it more expensive to plan a family vacation or even drive their kids to little league practice. Many of our small business owners, like florists, truck drivers and pizza delivery companies, are struggling to make ends meet.

This is unacceptable. America is in the midst of an energy crisis that threatens our national and economic security. The House legislation does a number of things to address the crisis. It reduces our dependence on foreign oil by expanding domestic supplies and allowing oil and gas exploration right here in the United States. Incentives are provided for the energy industry to increase refining capacity for gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil and jet fuel.

This legislation makes a significant venture into the use of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodieselenvironmentally safe alternatives that can be found in the corn, soybean and sugarcane fields right here in the United States. Under this legislation, our citizens would have access to more fuel efficient cars. It launches a state-of-the-art program to have emission-free hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by the year 2020. And, it provides grants to state and local governments to acquire alternative fueled vehicles, hybrids and ultra-low sulfur vehicles.

There's also a positive economic aspect to the bill. It would create nearly half a million jobs in the manufacturing, construction, agriculture and technology sectors. House Republicans have produced a bill that is environmentally friendly yet comprehensive, sound and balanced. More importantly, is eases America's dependence on an unpredictable foreign market.

This legislation provides a clear path towards the more efficient, reliable and affordable energy policy that our citizens deserve.

Separately, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is calling the House passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 a major step forward in the legislative process to get an energy bill to the president's desk this year. The comprehensive energy legislation includes a renewable fuels standard (RFS) that calls for five billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the nation's transportation fuel supply by 2012.

[The] action by the House is a critical step in having an energy policy enacted this year, said NCGA First Vice President Gerald Tumbleson. We thank Chairman Joe Barton [R-Texas] for his diligence in securing a balanced bill that addresses our energy security, stimulates economic growth, creates thousands of jobs and highlights the importance of renewable fuels for our future.

In addition to a five-billion-gallon RFS, provisions in the bill include:

Clarifying the federal government's role in siting liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and providing for an efficient approval process. New domestic oil and gas exploration and development and streamlining permitting for natural gas projects on federal lands. Creating and publishing a list of existing boutique fuels by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to establish a cap. Authorizing the U.S. Department of Energy to establish refinery revitalization zones in areas with an unemployment rate 20% above the national average, as well as either a closed refinery or 50 or more layoffs in a major manufacturer. Promoting clean coal technology and providing incentives for renewable energy such as biomass, wind and solar.

Tumbleson noted that although the RFS is important to corn growers, the provisions that expand natural gas supplies and other energy sources are also vital to the industry. Farmers have already felt adverse effects in their production costs from the continual increase in natural gas prices, he said. Consumers are feeling the pinch at gas stations across the country. This country needs a solution that will expand our domestic sources of energy while also expanding our economy. President Bush said very clearly [last] week that he wants a comprehensive energy bill on his desk for signing by the time Congress recesses this summer. [The] House action brings us a step closer to that reality.