News Releases

Senator Murray Responds to the Bush Energy Plan

May 17 2001

Says Plan Offers No Immediate Help for Washington Residents, Plan Skimps on Conservation and New Technology in Favor of Drilling

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) responded to the Bush Administration's energy policy. While praising President Bush for focusing attention on the energy issue, Murray expressed concern that the plan offers no immediate help for Washington consumers who are struggling to pay rising energy bills. Murray also questioned the plan's reliance on new drilling with little support for conservation and new technology.

"Washington consumers are hurting and need help today. The Bush plan won't help a single family get through this summer or the next. This plan tells Washington ratepayers to sit tight for 5 or 10 years. President Bush, families need help today, not 10 years from now," Murray said. "Families, businesses, and schools are drowning in energy bills, and yet the life raft offered by this administration will take 10 years to inflate."

"The energy crisis is getting worse. Today it's hitting our pocketbooks, and tomorrow it will threaten our prosperity. We need a real energy plan that offers short-term and long-term solutions. We need to boost conservation and research," Murray said.

Murray also noted the plan's focus on new power generation at the expense of conservation and new technology.

"We all agree we need more energy production, but it's not the only thing we need. We also need an Administration that understands that conservation is more than just a 'personal virtue.' We need real investments in new research and technology," Murray said.

Murray also renewed her calls for temporary price caps on wholesale energy prices. Despite bipartisan support for price caps, the Administration has opposed them.

"If President Bush wanted to help us, he just has to pick up the phone and tell his political appointees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow temporary price caps on wholesale energy rates. With one phone call, President Bush could protect us from unreasonable energy rates. Instead, he sent us a plan that tells us to sit tight for 5 years."

Full Statement by U.S. Senator Patty Murray on the Bush Energy Plan

Along the West Coast, families are feeling the pinch as the energy crisis turns into an economic crisis. In Washington state, families are bracing for things to get even worse over the coming months. With electric rates sky-high and gasoline prices on the rise, we were all eager to hear about the President's national energy plan.

While I applaud the Administration for engaging in the debate, I have serious concerns about its approach. The plan offers no short-term relief, it relies heavily on new mining and drilling, and it does not seriously invest in conservation, renewable energy or new technology.

Ten-year solutions are important and necessary. But thousands of families cannot wait ten years for the Administration's policy of promises to pan out. Families, businesses, and schools are drowning in deep electric bills, and yet the life raft offered by this administration will take 10 years to inflate.

SHORT-TERM

The most glaring problem with the Bush plan is that it offers no relief to help families and industries in the short-term. We need cost-based pricing to help rationalize the chaotic energy market. In the Senate, there is already a common-sense, bipartisan proposal to place temporary caps on wholesale energy prices. Another short-term action we have taken is a measure I co-sponsored to declare the energy crisis a "disaster area," and thereby enable small businesses to get low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. This will enable businesses to keep their heads above water during the short term.

PRODUCTION

The backbone of the Bush plan is to produce more energy through more drilling and mining. Nobody doubts that we must increase our generation capacity. Our energy production, infrastructure and energy transmission system have not kept up with demand. And we need to do more to get additional production on line. But production is only one leg of the stool. We also need conservation, alternative energies, and investments in the technologies that will lead to greater energy independence.

The Administration has called for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This pristine wilderness area is an animal habitat and one of our national treasures. Drilling in ANWR is not the answer. Not only will it despoil one of our last wildlife areas, but there is no guarantee that any of the oil will flow to the other 49 states. Since the lifting of the export ban, the oil that is already being pumped out of Alaskan wells has been flowing to foreign countries.

While the Administration is proposing new generation, Washington state is already building it. By the end of this year, 1,400 additional megawatts of energy will come on line without the White House plan and the risks it entails.

PIPELINE SAFETY

Ever since the 1999 pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington, I have been pushing for legislation to make our pipelines safer. While we have passed a bill each of the last two years in the Senate, the House has blocked reform efforts, and the White House is offering vague generalities instead of real solutions. A bill to improve pipeline safety standards is needed to protect our communities, our neighborhoods and our families. Unfortunately, the President's plan is long on pledges but short on policies.

CONSERVATION & RENEWABLE ENERGY

This plan shows that the administration has finally recognized that conservation is not merely a "personal virtue," as the Vice President recently said. Unfortunately, this plan does not go far enough. Any serious energy policy must also invest in energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies that are cheaper, faster and cleaner. A sustainable energy plan must balance the use of conventional fuels and technologies with a serious commitment to new technologies, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation. Unfortunately, President Bush has proposed cutting energy efficiency programs by 50 percent and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal, by 50 percent. Increasing energy efficiency would save billions of dollars, reduce oil imports, cut local and regional air pollution, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

VEHICLE EFFICIENCY

Vehicle efficiency and the overall use of petroleum fuels in the transportation sector are also missing from the Administration's proposal. While the White House has chosen to emphasize drilling and refining, we could actually reduce our need for these fossil fuels by building more efficient vehicles. Today, the United States is dependent on oil for 97 percent of its transportation energy needs. Fuel efficiency improvements for passenger cars, sport utility vehicles, and light trucks could reduce demand by 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.

New alternative fuel vehicles would reduce oil consumption by 1.5 million barrels per day by 2020. Upgrading the quality of replacement tires to match those that come as standard equipment on new cars would save 5.4 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change must be addressed as part of our energy plan. The United States is responsible for 25 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, but has only 5 percent of the world's population. While international negotiations will continue for several years on climate change, we need a domestic plan for reducing emissions. American consumers understand that expanding our energy supply and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. Many utilities and businesses have asked Congress for greater certainty on future regulations of pollutants and carbon dioxide before they make considerable investments in new, clean technologies.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Washington state has already lost thousands of jobs because of this crisis. Entire industries will be idled, just to prevent massive rate increases. According to a recent analysis, Washington state could lose another 42,000 jobs over the next ten years if this crisis is allowed to continue. Based on the administration's 10-year plan, that is exactly what will happen. Families are facing 50 percent increases on their electric bills already, but it doesn't have to be this way.

With one telephone call to his political appointee, President Bush could place a temporary market-based cap on the high cost of energy, and reduce the skyrocketing energy costs. I have repeatedly called for a temporary price cap to reign-in the brutal energy costs we are facing. Unfortunately, the Administration has rejected this bipartisan solution, which would offer immediate relief to ratepayers in the form of market-based pricing, while allowing the big energy companies to continue making reasonable profits.

With some leadership and courage, and a telephone call, President Bush could save ratepayers from sky-high electric bills. More important, he could save thousands of jobs in Washington state. Unfortunately, saving jobs in the Northwest is not part of this energy plan.