Thursday, July 24, 2008

Senate Floor Fight On Speculation v. Supply Continues

Jul 24: Senators continued their ongoing debate over energy price speculation v. energy supply (i.e. drilling in the outer continental shelf) [See WIMS 7/22/08]. As we reported yesterday, the debate on the Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act (S. 3268), has degenerated to Republicans and Democrats accusing one another of political manipulation. In the latest bandy, the two Senate "leaders" -- Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- trade barbs; each side claiming it's the other side's fault. A parade of their colleagues trot to the podium and claim their party is doing the right thing and level accusations against the other party.

Senate Majority Leader Reid says, “Our Republican colleagues think they’ve found a winner. They think that with Americans from coast to coast facing $4.00, $4.15, $4.25, even $4.50 gas prices, they can score some easy political points off our energy crisis. They say that all we need to do is open up our coasts for the oil companies to drill and gas prices will go down. They say that the energy crisis is so important that the Senate should stay on the issue and do nothing else until it is solved. But we all know that actions speak louder than words. And the Republican rhetoric has no basis in reality. Senate Republicans have had numerous opportunities to work with us to lower gas prices. In fact, Democrats have proposed plans to lower gas prices six times in just the past few weeks. Six times, Republicans have blocked us. What has happened over those weeks? Gas prices have broken one record after another."

Reid said, Democrats proposed legislation to extend tax credits for innovators who are researching and producing clean, renewable energy to decrease our consumption of oil; proposed legislation to roll back tax breaks on the oil companies who are making record profits; proposed a cap-and-trade system that would address global warming and provide billions of dollars for alternative energy; proposed legislation to protect consumers from price gouging; proposed a renewable electricity standard; proposed legislation to go after OPEC for collusion and price-fixing; proposed legislation that would curb the excessive speculation of Wall Street oil traders; and proposed improvements to the LIHEAP program. He said Republicans said "no" to all of the proposals.

He said, “Democrats even offered Republicans the one thing they’ve been talking about: a vote on drilling. Did Republicans take our offer of exactly what they claim to want? No. Once again, Republicans said no. The game they seem to be playing is this: make the American people think that they are willing to grind the Senate to a halt to deal with gas prices. But the American people can see the record: Democrats have offered a comprehensive set of solutions for the short- and long-term. Republicans have offered nothing but talk. They have talked about more drilling. What they don’t say is that their drilling bill wouldn’t put a drop of oil into the marketplace for at least 13 years. Even the Republican nominee for President, Senator McCain, has called the Republican drilling plan purely psychological."

Republican Minority Leader McConnell responds, "When historians look back at the 110th Congress, they’ll say that the most vexing domestic issue we faced was a rapid and dramatic rise in gas prices at the pump. And, as is stands today, they’ll have to conclude that the Democratic Leaders ignored the problem by refusing to unlock the domestic energy resources that they put off limits back when gas and oil were cheap. And if these historians do their homework, they’ll note the irony in all this. They’ll note that these same Democrats were the ones who took the Majority less than two years ago promising to do something about gas prices that were a lot lower than they are today. . .

“Clearly, this is a serious problem for people. And we have an obligation to address it. But I’m afraid the Democrats who run the Senate just want it all to go away. They’ve been going to great lengths to make sure it goes away. They’re cancelling hearings where they’re afraid the issue might come up. And they’re muzzling their own members -- more than a dozen of whom favor a balanced solution that includes more domestic production and increased conservation. They’re telling them the same thing they’re telling the American people: ‘No, we can’t.’

“The problem we face, as everyone knows, is that the demand for oil is increasing faster than the supply. And the solution, as everyone knows, is to increase supply and lower demand. Yet this week, the Democrat Leadership in Congress is saying ‘No we can’t.’ They’re saying ‘No we can’t’ produce a single additional barrel of oil at home. Instead of increasing supply, they’re trying to distract us with the same blame game they roll out whenever the demands of some special interest group conflict with the will of the people.

"This time they’ve turned their attention on speculators. They say the reason gas prices have nearly doubled since the Democrats took over a year and a half ago is the speculators. Republicans have no problem strengthening regulation of the futures markets. But if Congress doesn’t allow any new exploration, it’s perfectly clear what the speculation about future prices will be — not good. The speculators are betting on scarcity. And the Majority is helping to prove them right. So here we are. . . "

And, it goes on and on.

Access the full statement from Senator Reid (
click here). Access the full statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access the Senate Republicans website for links to many releases, statements and videos on the debate (click here). Access the Senate Democrats website for links to information on the debate (click here). Access legislative details for S. 3268 which includes links to all Congressional actions and the floor statements (click here). [*Energy]