March 15, 2011

Lugar Tells Christian Coalition Costs of Foreign Oil Are Too High

Senator Dick Lugar delivered the following remarks at an energy conference held by the Christian Coalition today in Washington:

It is a great pleasure to join you today for this important discussion on energy, faith, and family.  I want to thank Roberta Combs for her invitation and for her personal leadership and advocacy that solving our energy crisis is fundamental to ensuring the security, economy, and well-being of all Americans.

Hoosiers and Americans feel the pain of our foreign oil addiction each day at the gas pump.  This morning at the Phillips 66 station at the corner of Ohio and East Streets in Indianapolis, regular unleaded gas cost $3.65 per gallon.  The situation for consumers could get worse if costly oil stokes inflation, driving up the cost of consumer goods and food.  For many Americans, and especially for the nearly 1 in 10 Hoosiers without a job, high pump prices require difficult choices between what they can and cannot provide to their families, churches, and communities.

Rising oil prices also threaten job growth and economic recovery.  In the first three quarters of 2010, Americans sent approximately $927 million per day overseas for oil.  The figure will be even higher when updated reports arrive.  That steady outflow is money that cannot be reinvested in American productivity and jobs.  In general, every 10 percent increase in the price of oil cuts about a quarter of one percent off global GDP.  That amount may not send the world into recession, but it would be a major setback to job creation.

One group of Americans that feels the consequences of foreign oil dependence even more than motorists is our military and civilian personnel serving overseas.  They and their families have endured long deployments to the Middle East on missions that are connected to maintaining the stability of that oil producing region.  But despite the strategic risks of our dependence, the United States is importing more oil now than we were prior to September 11, 2001.  This is especially concerning when you consider that some of the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on oil each year are diverted to governments and groups that do not wish us well.  Governments rich in oil from Iran to Venezuela are emboldened or insulated by their dominant position in oil markets.  For example, we continue to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program, yet other nations are hesitant to endanger their access to Iran’s oil and natural gas supplies.  In many oil rich countries, revenues are used to entrench corruption and authoritarianism even as citizens live in dire poverty.

The problem of our foreign oil dependence is especially severe now because global demand is once again surging and at the same time production from conventional oilfields is dropping faster than expected. This puts a squeeze on the amount of oil that producers could put on the market but are holding back, which is essential for preventing market volatility.  Violence in Libya dramatically demonstrates that Americans are directly affected by events far beyond our borders.

Recently, Saudi Arabia announced that it is increasing production to calm oil markets.  We welcome what relief this can bring to rising prices.  But Americans understand that we should not have to depend on the good will of rulers in the Middle East.

Ending our dangerous over-reliance on oil imports necessitates greater use of domestic resources, improved efficiency, and strong international cooperation.  I am working to reverse the Obama administration's de facto prohibition on new oil drilling, promote new forms of liquid fuels such as from Indiana biomass and coal, and encourage dramatic increases in vehicle fuel efficiency.  I also am working to improve reliability and transparency in global markets by encouraging diversified supply routes and increased trade with reliable suppliers such as Canada.  Transition will take time, but that is all the more reason to work quickly and assertively.  In a world of tight oil supplies, every barrel produced or saved is important for America’s security and prosperity.

The energy plan I introduced last year would have cut foreign oil imports by 40 percent by 2030.  I am revising this plan to find even more gains.

As a legislator, it is my duty and privilege to address fundamental challenges to American society such as energy security.  As a Christian, I join you in recognizing that we have a duty to be good stewards of the Earth that has been given to us.  I recall working with my father Marvin and brother Tom on our 604 acre family farm in Marion County.  When we were boys, Tom and I put our savings into planting wheat that was subsequently destroyed by a flood.  Loss of our investment was a good business lesson.  Our Dad built a higher and longer levee that prevented future floods.  But it also was a profound testament that the resources provided by God’s Earth cannot be taken for granted. 

When we care for the Earth, it provides in abundance.  How we use and generate energy is critical to stewardship.

Thank you for the opportunity to join with you in fellowship today, and I look forward to our conversation.

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