Senate bill focuses on biofules, efficiency

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We are approaching the summer driving season, and from Mountain City to Memphis, Tennessean are facing higher gasoline prices. The nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline reached an all-time high of $3.10 this week -- an increase of more than 23 cents in the last three weeks. Unfortunately, we must begin to face the reality that the days of cheap gasoline might well be over.

Historically high gasoline prices are a symptom of America's increasing dependence on foreign oil. For decades, U.S. demand for gasoline has continued to grow and domestic production has not kept pace, forcing us to import more and more petroleum from dangerous and unstable markets in the Persian Gulf and Venezuela.

Now that anti-American political leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez are nationalizing major oil reserves, and emerging markets in China and India are consuming more energy to fuel their expanding economies, we can't afford to delay action any longer.

Recently, the Senate took an important step towards reducing our dependence on foreign oil. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which I'm a member, passed a bipartisan energy security bill -- the first major piece of national energy legislation since the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

This measure promotes swift and continued development of biofuel alternatives to petroleum, increases energy efficiency standards, and promotes development of carbon capture and sequestration technology.

The legislation encourages the continued production of alternative energy sources by promoting research and development of various biofuels, and will displace 15 percent of our gasoline use by 2022.

Tennessee's climate and terrain make us ideally suited to produce the kinds of feedstocks used in the development and production of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee are now working to develop a more efficient generation of biofuels, and West Tennessee farmers are helping lead the way in expanding this emerging industry.

I'm proud Tennessee will play an important role in meeting this new national biofuels standard.

One easy way to reduce our energy consumption and make consumers' dollars go further is by increasing efficiency.

Our bill codifies pending efficiency standards for various household appliances and requires all federal government buildings to transition to lighting that is energy star rated or designated as energy efficient by October 2010.

If legislators are to change Americans' attitudes and behavior toward their energy usage, the federal government must practice what it preaches.

Tennessee's work in the area of clean coal technology makes me particularly interested in the continued use of coal, America's largest energy resource, in an environmentally friendly way.

One concern with using more coal for electricity and fuel is that it releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Provisions in our bill expand research and development into technologies that can capture carbon dioxide from coal power plants and other industrial facilities and then sequester, or store, the gas underground. This will allow the U.S. to take advantage of a huge domestic resource, while simultaneously disposing of a harmful gas.

No silver bullet exists to end our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the rising energy costs facing consumers. Therefore, we must build upon legislation passed by the Energy Committee and diversify our energy portfolio to include: continued development of alternative fuels, nuclear power and renewable power sources such as solar and wind; investment in research and technology; the expansion of our refinery capacity to include biorefineries and coal-to-liquid facilities; conservation of our resources; and enhancing domestic oil and gas production in an environmentally friendly way.

Creating new markets for domestic energy sources not only increases our national security, it creates tremendous economic opportunities for our state and our country.

Securing America's energy future represents one of the central challenges facing our country today, and addressing this problem should not fall victim to partisan politics. I believe our Committee has taken a meaningful, bipartisan step towards making our country more energy secure, and I look forward to the debate in the full Senate. I hope this will only be the beginning of our progress on energy security in the 110th Congress.

Bob Corker represents Tennessee in the United States Senate. He is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.