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(Washington, D.C.) – Tonight U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) voted for comprehensive energy legislation.  The Senate version of H.R.6 passed the Senate and now goes to conference with the House of Representatives.

Senator Murray’s full statement from the Congressional Record follows:

MRS. MURRAY.  Mr. President, I rise today to discuss our efforts to address the energy challenges that are facing our nation today and the solutions we need for tomorrow.  I am pleased that the Senate last night passed a comprehensive energy bill that moves our nation forward.

Impact of High Energy Prices

Mr. President, we all know how important energy is to our economy, our families and our quality of life.  The high cost of energy is putting a painful squeeze on every sector of my home state.  Commuters notice every time they fill up the tank, businesses are struggling with the higher costs of transportation, industry is feeling the impact of higher energy costs, and farmers feel the pain both in the price of fuel and fertilizer.

The question is – What are we doing to do about it?  It's clear there are no silver bullets.  

It's going to take smart policies, carried out consistently over many years, to begin to change the way we use and save energy.

Overall, I believe we must focus on several priorities, including:

  • Making America more self-reliant so we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy,
  • Using innovation to meet our energy needs in creative ways,
  • Supporting conservation to reduce our energy demands,
  • Investing in education so can cultivate the scientists,esearchers, and workers of the new energy future, 
  • And protecting consumers from unscrupulous energy manipulators.

Washington State Innovation

Before I turn to those specific priorities, I want to share with the Senate some of the innovative things that leaders in Washington state are doing to meet our energy needs.

Washington state is moving forward on renewable sources of energy like wind energy. I

n April, I had an opportunity to visit the Hopkins Ridge Wind Farm in Columbia County, Washington.  This is a Puget Sound Energy facility that has 83 wind turbines.  When they're running at peak capacity, they can generate enough energy on an average basis to supply about 50,000 homes.

In fact, the Ports of Longview and Vancouver in Southwest Washington have become a gateway for bringing wind energy components into the U.S.  I've been able to support their work through the wind energy tax credit. Last year, I got to visit the Port of Longview and see how our longshoremen expertly handle these massive turbines.

Washington's agriculture community is stepping up and embracing renewable sources of energy.  This Spring, I was in Colfax, Washington for a roundtable discussion with farmers, and energy was a big part of the discussion.  

I can tell you that Washington state farmers are poised to become active players in the renewable energy market.  We talked about ways to help them make the transition into bio-fuel crops.  

And there are other innovative projects.  In Gray's Harbor, we're moving forward with a Biodiesel Plant.  It will be a new home for Washington state bio-fuel production, a new source of jobs for the people of Grays Harbor County, and a new way to combat high gas prices.  And in the Tri-Cities, we're moving forward with a new research center on biofuels and bioproducts.  

Smart Appliances

In my home state of Washington, we've also been testing some cutting edge technology that puts information into the hands of consumers so they can make informed decisions about how – and when – they use energy.  

With the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other partners, I helped kick of a GridWise demonstration project to test smart appliances.  These appliances give consumers the power to decide when to run them based on the cost of energy.  For example, your thermostat could indicate to you when heat costs are at a premium.  Or you could set your dryer to run only when energy is a certain price.  

We all know that the cost of energy fluctuates throughout the day. Unfortunately, today’s consumers don't know the real cost of energy at any given time.  So it's hard for them to make informed energy choices.

These innovative appliances were tested for a year in 150 homes, a water-pumping station and a commercial building.  The results are impressive.  Researchers found that giving consumers these tools helps save energy and reduce demand on the electricity grid.  They found that real-time pricing can also alleviate the need to build a new substation.

So I'm really proud of the innovative work that’s already underway in Washington state, and both Senator Cantwell and I believe it can serve as a model for the progress we can make in the rest of the country.

My Energy Priorities

Mr. President, now I'd like to turn to my energy priorities and some of the positive steps that this bill takes.

1.    Making America Self-Reliant

My first priority is to help make America more energy self-reliant.  Here at home we have tremendous demand for energy and that demand is growing.  

Unfortunately, today we are still too dependent on foreign sources of energy, particularly oil.  That dependence affects our security and our relations with other countries.  We need to reduce our dependence, and we can do that through some of the measures in this bill.

This bill includes a Renewable Fuels Standard that will increase our use of renewable fuels, including biofuels like cellulosic ethanol and biogas.  

It also includes tighter CAFE standard for our auto industry, and it increases the number of bioresearch centers focused on biofuel.  This bill will also help us diversify our fuel sources by promoting alternative fuels, such as ethanol, biogas, and biodiesel.  

I am disappointed that important tax incentives, which would spur the development of renewable electricity, increase the production of alternative transportation fuels, and help homeowners who make their properties more energy efficient, were blocked in a procedural effort by the minority.  I am hopeful that these important investments will be restored as this legislation moves forward.

2. Innovation

Second, we need to use innovation to help meet our energy needs.  This bill will help move forward our innovation agenda by increasing research and development funding for new technologies.

It authorizes funding for research in states with low rates of ethanol production.  This investment could help Washington get off the ground in the area of cellulosic ethanol.  This bill also boosts research in Carbon capture and storage. We're doing some interesting work on that at PNNL in my home state, and I'm pleased to support further research.

3. Conservation

Third, we need to be more aggressive about conserving energy.  It's everything from choosing compact fluorescent light bulbs and energy efficient appliances to consolidating errands so you make fewer trips in your car.   

Through this bill, the federal government will lead by example by using energy efficiently and employing conservation practices.  It includes, as I mentioned, higher CAFE standards on our vehicles will help conserve gasoline. It will promote efficient lighting technologies, efficient vehicles and advanced batteries.

4. Education

Fourth, we need to expand education so we have the scientists, researchers, and workers to help us reach a new generation of energy innovation.

The existing and new technologies that we will deploy to increase our self-reliance are complicated, and we need to make sure we have a well-trained workforce that is able to implement these forward-thinking technologies.  This entails both continuing education for our current workforce, but also training the workers of tomorrow.  We must provide these training programs while our young people are still in our educational system.

In my home state of Washington, several universities are addressing these needs by offering curriculum in this area.  For example, Gonzaga University in Spokane has a transmission line worker training program.  

Central Washington University in Ellensburg wants to teach its students how to operate the efficiency technologies of the future.  I think we should support these efforts by ensuring funding for programs like these.  I’m pleased that this legislation calls out this important issue.

In Washington state, we're also working to educate the next generation of energy innovators.  

Washington State University, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the state of Washington have worked together to create the Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory in Richland.  

This is a pioneering research center where researchers will develop technology to turn biomass into energy and products.  It will have teaching laboratories and classrooms and is located on WSU's Tri-Cities campus.  I've been pleased to support this project from its inception, and I will continue to do so.

5. Protect consumers from energy manipulators

Finally, we need to protect consumers from those who would manipulate the price of energy to take advantage of high demand.  One of the things that the Enron scandal revealed is that some people were happy to create false shortages of energy in order to drive up the price.  

This bill helps us fight energy manipulators through a price-gouging bill that I co-sponsored, which is including in the underlying bill.

Mr. President, we have a lot of challenges in front of us as individuals and as a country when it comes to energy.  But we also have the ability to craft responsible, smart legislation that will help move us in the right direction.  

I'm pleased to be working to make our country more self-reliant, to invest in innovation, conservation and education and to help protect consumers.  

I'm honored to come from a state that is producing some of the most innovative energy ideas anywhere, and I'm excited about moving this bill forward so we can use that progress to benefit our entire country.