Thursday, April 27, 2006

Energy independence among our greatest challenges, Bayh says

Energy independence among our greatest challenges, Bayh says
For Howey Political Report April 27, 2006

America turned its attention to the gas pump this week when rapid increases raised prices to more than $3 a gallon in many areas of the country, about 25 cents more than just two weeks ago.

Oil industry analysts blamed supply disruptions, geopolitical worries and limited refining capacity, but a CNN poll indicates voters blame the oil companies (49 percent) and President Bush (38 percent).

"[C]onsiderable anxiety exists in the general public about gas - its price and availability," Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote yesterday in his political blog, The Fix. "It is a prototypical pocketbook issue - one that every American (Democrat, Republican and independent) can identify with and one that people want the government to address."

President Bush took to the airwaves Tuesday to soothe the troubled electorate and announce a "four-part plan to confront high gasoline prices."

"I think we need to follow suit on what we have been emphasizing, particularly through the energy bill, and that is to encourage conservation, to expand domestic production, and to develop alternative sources of energy like ethanol," he said.

Crude oil prices began to drop almost immediately on the announcement.

The real problem at the pump is America's short attention span. Experts have been warning us for decades of the dangers inherent in an energy system contingent on the development, production and delivery of foreign oil. Yet today, even after 9/11, our imports continue to grow.

Vulnerable To Energy Blackmail

"One of the lessons from September 11th is that we can no longer be so dependent on places like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela for our energy supply," Sen. Evan Bayh said in a recent statement. "We and our allies are vulnerable to energy blackmail."

The Indiana Democrat says our continuing reliance on other countries demonstrates a failure in leadership. In mid-March, he told an audience in Georgia that "one of the great challenges of our generation is this whole issue of energy independence. I don’t think we can expect much progress under this administration."

"There was a moment there following [September 11th] where the American people were willing to be summoned to do what it takes to make real progress on this issue," he said.

"I had people stopping me on the streets in Indianapolis...literally they said to me, 'Evan, what can I do? I want to help my country, what can I do?' This president was asked that question in a press conference about a week after the attack. One of the reporters said to him, 'Mr. President, the American people are asking what they can do to help their country.' Any of you remember what the President said? 'Go to the mall, go shopping.' Well, I’m sorry, that’s not leadership, and we can do better than that."

The answer, Bayh says, is legislation he proposed in November that would ultimately reduce the amount of oil Americans use by a third of current daily consumption (see HPR, March 2). In response to an HPR query, Bayh press secretary Meghan Keck pointed out that the list of senators co-sponsoring S.2025 continues to grow, with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) signing onto the legislation on Monday, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 16.

Sen. Bayh "was encouraged that some of the small steps President Bush called for in his speech this week are already included in his energy plan, but believes that the president should go farther and support his bipartisan legislation," Keck wrote to HPR in an email. "If he did so, it could be law in a matter of weeks."

Indiana's senior Senator, Richard Lugar, is among five Republicans listed as co-sponsors. Lugar, a leading proponent for change in the nation's energy policy, touted the bill during a much-heralded speech at the Brookings Institution March 13, when he said "energy is the albatross of U.S. national security."

"What is needed is an urgent national campaign led by a succession of Presidents and Congresses who will ensure that American ingenuity and resources are fully committed to this problem," Lugar said.

A Declaration Of Energy Independence

On Saturday, Bayh will keynote the North Carolina Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Celebration. As in other recent speeches, Bayh is expected to tell the crowd in Raleigh that America needs a "declaration of energy independence."

"We need to focus like a laser – I think there is a real opportunity here - on the whole energy situation," Bayh told a gathering of Michigan Democrats April 8. "We can create hundreds of thousands of good jobs in this country in the energy sector, including building high-mileage vehicles right here in Detroit, Michigan and across Indiana, if we just dedicate ourselves to doing exactly that."


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