January 24, 2011

Lugar Calls for “Highly Visible” Presidential Initiative on Energy Security

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today called on the Obama Administration to shift its attention from the divisive issue of reducing carbon emissions to a comprehensive campaign to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

“The President should say unequivocally that the United States is going to achieve a particular goal or goals related to overcoming our oil dependence,” Lugar told the 1st Annual Clean Energy Summit in Washington sponsored by the Clean Economy Network Education Fund.

Lugar said President Obama “can acknowledge that others may want something more or something different, but he should pick goals that, if achieved, would constitute irrefutable and irreversible progress that would be noticed by our enemies and allies. The President should promise that he will devote time to these goals every week. He should welcome the help of both parties and share credit along the way.”

“Prospects for success would be enhanced if the goals are well-publicized, measurable, and understandable to the broad public” Lugar explained. “For example, the President could establish the national goal of making competitively-priced biofuels available to every motorist in America or increasing the gasoline and diesel mileage of America’s auto fleet far more rapidly than is currently required by law. In the power sector, the President could establish the national goal of making the U.S. economy the most energy efficient in world. Reducing energy intensity would increase the productivity of our nation’s businesses and propel U.S. global competitiveness.”

Lugar said it’s been five years since President George W. Bush said in his 2006 State of the Union Address, that the United States was “addicted to oil.”

“This was an extraordinary statement from a President who was so closely associated with the oil industry,” Lugar said. “But in 2007, I noted that despite the elevation of the energy theme, the President’s energy activities were barely registering in the American consciousness.” “Ironically, President Obama has the same problem,” Lugar explained, “but for very different reasons. From the beginning, the Obama energy security message was subordinated to his campaign on climate change. The Administration bet that it could address U.S. energy security through the mechanism of cap and trade and other policy actions primarily undertaken to reduce carbon. But it vastly overestimated support for comprehensive climate change legislation, and it underestimated the obstacles that its climate change focus would present for reaching agreement on shared energy security objectives.”

Lugar said “energy security was a subject that was ripe for bipartisan cooperation when President Obama entered office in 2009. Instead, it became one of the most polarizing areas of domestic policy. The Obama Administration’s focus on carbon reductions caused almost any energy security proposal to be viewed through the prism of climate change. The theological adherence to climate orthodoxy among some and absolutist denial by others left little room for a serious debate on energy questions.”

“The result has been that although the Obama Administration has worked on a broad front of energy issues and the President clearly favors rapid progress on research and deployment of renewable energy options,” Lugar said, “the President is not associated in the public’s mind with energy security objectives, let alone accomplishments. Instead, in the energy realm the Administration is associated with the Gulf oil spill and a foundering attempt to impose a complicated cap and trade bill on a skeptical public during a recession.”

“It is hard to imagine a goal that is less inspiring or less tangible than the Obama Administration’s target of achieving a 17 percent reduction in carbon emissions, “ Lugar explained. “In the best case, progress toward oil-independence goals could stimulate a degree of American pride. Clearly, Brazil’s achievement of large scale deployment of ethanol as a national transportation fuel became a source of public pride in that country.”

Lugar said “it is possible to revitalize energy security as a bipartisan issue. To do this, the President and leaders in Congress should explore the most fertile ground for cooperation – overcoming U.S. oil dependence. There is little disagreement that our oil dependence is a major threat to our economy and security. A disruption of oil supplies due to war, political instability, terrorism, embargo or other causes is one of the most troubling and likely short-term threats to our economy. Rising gasoline prices give Americans a visible reminder of this on a weekly basis.”

“A highly-visible campaign toward a measurable oil independence goal would focus Americans and their government on achieving results and create confidence that other energy objectives could be reached,” Lugar said.”It also could yield collateral economic benefits. U.S. energy policy is not happening in a vacuum. Nations around the world are looking for solutions to the same problems. Alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies have the potential to be major export industries that would benefit the American economy for generations. The economic benefits of these technologies will flow to nations that win the race to develop and deploy them.”

Lugar said he would re-introduce his Practical Energy Plan that will:

* Reduce the need for imported oil by 40 percent by 2030; * Cut the average American household's energy bill by 15 percent; and * Cut overall U.S. power demand by 11 percent.

To read the entire speech, please visit http://lugar.senate.gov/news/record.cfm?id=330494&&. For more information on Lugar’s energy security legislation go to http://lugar.senate.gov/energy/.

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