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Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks



(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor to outline her concerns with the pending Energy Bill and to detail her opposition to drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Mr. President I rise in opposition to cloture on these amendments. Mr. President, I want to say a few words about the energy bill in general, and then I want to explain my opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Our country needs a comprehensive energy policy. Certainly that policy needs to recognize the current importance of oil, gas, and coal exploration. But to ensure America's energy security for the future, it should support energy efficiency, conservation, clean and renewable energy sources, and it should help diversify our energy sources. Overall, I'm disappointed with the direction this energy bill is heading in because it has been diverted from achieving these important goals. I'm disappointed because we had an opportunity to make progress on our long term challenges. This bill started off in the right direction. Unfortunately, after many amendments, it's now a far different bill, and it does not respond adequately to the challenges we face -- either in my home state of Washington or nationally.

It focuses too heavily on coal and natural gas. It does too little to diversify our energy sources. It does not meaningfully raise fuel economy standards. And it does not protect electricity customers.

In fact, it creates considerable uncertainty in electricity markets. It pursues electricity deregulation despite the hard lessons learned through our recent experiences in California and with Enron. It takes regulatory authority away from the states and gives it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And it does not do enough to encourage investment in our transmission system.

Overall, this energy bill reflects the way we've treated energy policy for decades. We haven't addressed the long term problems. Instead, we wait until there's a crisis, and then we're stuck looking at bad, short-term fixes like drilling in ANWR. We haven't dealt with our long-term dependence on oil. We haven't invested enough in renewable energy. We haven't diversified our energy sources. And we haven't put enough financial incentives behind conservation.

The responsible way to address our energy problems is to focus on the long term solutions like reducing our need for oil, and investing in clean and renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, this bill continues to largely endorse the past practices of short term fixes that don't address many of the real, long-term problems.

Mr. President, we are being asked to damage a sensitive ecosystem -- and spoil one of our national treasures -- for the sake of oil production. We can't drill our way out of our energy problems. That's a fact.

I ask my colleagues at what point do we say enough is enough? Today we are being asked to allow the President to authorize exploration in a critical wildlife refuge. Where will we and future generations be asked to drill tomorrow?

The Need to Diversify Energy Sources

To get out of these short term traps, we need to invest in long term solutions like diversifying our energy sources. This bill started with a strong renewable portfolio standard -- which would have diversified our energy sources. After many changes, however, those standards are now no better than the current pathways. To me, that's a missed opportunity.

We should be doing more to diversify our energy sources.

Currently, Washington state and the Pacific Northwest are very dependent on hydroelectric power to meet our energy needs. This dependence contributed to severe price spikes during last year's drought and California's disruption of the West Coast energy market. I fear that in our rush to address last year's energy shortfall, we in Washington state are becoming overly reliant on natural gas.

Diversifying our energy resources will help us prevent future price swings. Developing other resources like wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal energy will protect us from future shortages, and will ensure our communities and economy can continue to grow. However, rather than enacting a strong renewable portfolio standard, this bill would continue the failed strategy of digging more, burning more and conserving less.

Concerns with the Electricity Title

Mr. President, next I want to turn to the electricity title in this energy bill.

We have worked on and agreed to many amendments, however, electricity consumers do not appear to be protected. I think we are moving too quickly to deregulate electricity markets and to create regional transmission organizations. From the California energy crisis to the collapse of Enron, the events of the last few years have highlighted the importance of moving slowly with electricity legislation. In Washington state, our regional transmission system has more than 40 major bottlenecks. There were many other parts of the nation that also have major bottlenecks, and we need to fix them. We can build all the generation facilities we need, but still not have power because the transmission capacity is inadequate. With all of the problems we are experiencing in our transmission systems, this is not the time to dramatically alter the way electricity markets are regulated and function. Mr. President, with regard to electricity legislation, I think that we should proceed very cautiously.

ANWR

Mr. President, I'd like to turn to the debate over drilling in the Arctic National Widlife Refuge, which I strongly oppose. I want to say for the record that I have heard from many residents of my state on this issue. They've called me, and they've sent me letters, faxes and emails. And a clear majority oppose drilling in ANWR.

Mr. President, I will vote against oil exploration in ANWR because the potential benefits do not outweigh the significant environmental impacts. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an important and unique national treasure. In fact, it's the only conservation system in North America that protects a complete spectrum of arctic ecosystems. It's the most biologically productive part of the Arctic Refuge. And it's a critical calving ground for a large herd of caribou, which are vital to many Native Americans in the Arctic.

Energy exploration in ANWR would have a significant impact on this unique ecosystem. Further, development will not provide the benefits being advertised. The proponents of this measure argue that over the years, energy exploration has become more environmentally friendly. While that may be true, there are still significant environmental impacts for this sensitive region.

Exploration means a footprint for drilling, permanent roads, gravel pits, water wells, and air strips. We recognize that our economy and lifestyle require significant energy resources, and we are facing some important energy questions. However, opening ANWR to oil and gas drilling is not the answer to our energy needs.

Many people are incorrectly stating that the exploration of ANWR will reduce our dependance on foreign oil. As a nation, the only way to become less dependant on foreign oil is to become less dependant on oil overall. The oil reserves in ANWR -- in fact the oil reserves in the entire United States -- are not enough to significantly reduce our dependance on foreign oil.

There are four ways to really reduce our need for foreign oil. First, we can increase the fuel economy of our automobiles and light trucks. Higher fuel economy standards will reduce air pollution, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, save consumers significant fuel costs, and reduce our national trade deficit. In addition, cars made in the U.S. will be more marketable overseas if they achieve better fuel economy standards. Last month, many of us in the Senate tried to raise CAFÉ standards, but our efforts were defeated. A second way to reduce our need for foreign oil is to expand the use of domestically-produced renewable and alternative fuels. That will reduce emissions of toxic pollutants, create jobs in the U.S., and reduce our trade deficit.

Third, we can invest in emerging technologies like fuel cells and solar electric cars. The United States has always led the world in emerging technologies, and this should be no different.

Fourth, we can also increase the energy efficiency of our office buildings and homes.

These four strategies will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect one of our nation's most precious treasures. The proponents of drilling in ANWR have argued that it will help our national security, and I want to comment on that.

Back in 1995, the same proponents of drilling in ANWR fought to lift the ban on exporting North Slope oil. Prior to 1995, oil produced on American soil on the North Slope of Alaska was -- by law -- headed for the domestic market. This export ban had been in effect for over 20 years. In 1995, some members worked to lift the ban.

On the other hand, I helped lead a bipartisan filibuster with Senator Hatfield -- a great Senator from the state of Oregon -- to keep the export ban in place because it served our nation's interests. Since that debate first took place, I have become even more convinced that sending our oil to overseas markets is the wrong policy for our country.

It is recognized that gasoline prices in West Coast states are frequently among the highest in the nation. It's estimated that since 1995, more than 90 million barrels of Alaskan oil have been exported overseas. Approximately half of this oil went to Korea, a quarter to Japan, with the remaining going to China and Taiwan.

I would respectfully suggest to the Administration and the proponents of drilling in ANWR, that if this debate were really about providing Americans with our own oil, or about denying Saddam Hussein the means to develop his evil plans then here on the Senate floor we would be considering reimposing the export ban. The Administration has been silent on reimposing the ban. The House has been silent on reimposing the ban. And I doubt the Senate will move on it.

Now, I suspect that someone is going to stand up and say that the House-passed ANWR bill precludes the exportation of oil from ANWR, and that the pending amendment limits the exportation of ANWR oil except to our friends in Israel. But it will be easy for proponents to do an "end run" around these provisions.

First, the export ban would have to survive in conference. And even if it survives, oil companies will still be allowed to export more of the oil they drill from other parts of Alaska where the ban does not exist. The proponents will say that there haven't been any recent exports of North Slope oil. The fact is that as soon as the economics line up, we will add to the 90 million barrels already sent overseas.

Let's remember that the amount of oil in ANWR is too small to significantly improve our current energy problems. Further, the oil exploration in ANWR will not actually start producing oil for as many as 10 years.

Exploring and drilling for oil and gas at ANWR is not forward thinking. It's a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

Mr. President, for all these reasons, I oppose energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and I continue to have strong concerns about the energy bill as it is currently written.