Cantwell Lauds Passage of Landmark Energy Bill that Increases Fuel Economy, Boosts Biofuels Biofuels

Disappointed Some Republicans Blocked Other Critical Alternative Energy Measures

WASHINGTON, DC – With gas prices hovering over $3 a gallon,  the U.S. becoming more dependent on foreign oil, and new evidence that global climate change is already occurring, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today helped secure key provisions and passage of a historic energy package.  The bipartisan bill raises fuel efficiency standards for the first time in more than over two decades, strengthens and expands the growing market for ethanol and biodiesel, and creates a ban on oil market manipulation.  By 2030 these measures will displace the equivalent of  one-third of our foreign oil needs, save American consumers at least half a trillion dollars in energy costs, and reduce our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount as all of our vehicles on the road produce today.
“Now that we are at $90 [a barrel for oil], we need to move faster in changing these incentive programs,” said Cantwell on the Senate floor this morning.  “What we have to realize is we cannot continue in the same direction.  We have to change course.  We have to level the playing field and take away subsidies from very mature, very profitable industries and make investments in renewables instead.  Now, I ask my colleagues, when the United States only has 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, is it smart to continue to have 75 percent of our tax incentives dedicated to fossil fuels?  This legislation makes more investments in renewable and energy efficiency, protects consumers from market manipulation, strengthens and expands alternative energy, and increases America's energy independence.” 
However, this evening’s victory was bittersweet since two other key provisionsCantwell fought for – a national renewable electricity standard and a tax package extending and expanding incentives for alternative energy technologies – were removed in the face of a presidential veto threat.  An earlier veto threat also forced out Cantwell legislation in the Senate passed bill that would have made price gouging in the oil and petroleum markets a federal crime. 
“Although I’m disappointed we weren’t able to more completely break away from our over dependence on fossil fuels, this is still the most important, and greenest, energy bill ever passed by Congress,” said Cantwell.  “This landmark bill bets on American ingenuity and investment rather than gambling our future on the good will of OPEC.  If we want to get beyond petroleum, we have to stop subsidizing it.” 
Cantwell spoke on the Senate floor several times today urging her colleagues to support these innovative energy policies.  Unfortunately, at the White House’s direction some Republican senators closed ranks around a more expansive bill, but a second evening vote overwhelmingly passed the same package without the alternative tax incentives. 
Cantwell has made making our nation’s energy system cleaner and more diverse one of her top priorities.  She leveraged her membership on the three primary Senate committees that drafted this bill, the Energy, Commerce, and Finance Committees, to legislate her vision of a clean energy economy and to support budding clean energy industries in Washington state.  Besides helping author the renewable fuels standard and CAFE titles, some of Cantwell’s other contributions included:
  • Ensuring biodiesel users, like truckers, can trust that the quality of the product because of the creation of a national standard;  
  • Creating a new tire efficiency labeling program that empowers consumers to save on fuel costs; 
  • Requiring the federal government purchase energy efficient equipment, saving taxpayers $25 million over the next five years; and, 
  • Establishing Smart Grid technologies for local energy consumers to provide cost savings in the double digits and prevent future blackouts.  This new Smart Grid program promises to update our transmission grid from a two-lane dirt road to a four-lane super highway.