“Today we should be bringing to the American people an energy policy that is worthy of the 21st century. A policy that sets us on a path toward reliable sources and supplies of energy, and a cleaner environment. A policy that promotes efficiency and innovation, and provides more protection for consumers.
“But the bill the Administration and the Republican leaders have brought to the floor looks backward and not forward.
“The Republican bill authorizes drilling in the most fragile untouched wilderness of the Arctic in search of a six-month supply of oil that won't reach the market for another 10 years.
“The Republican bill makes our air less healthy and our water more dirty. It jeopardizes the health of our children. It allows companies to force diesel fuel into the ground in a way that could threaten the water table in order to fracture and retrieve oil deposits. It jeopardizes the protection of rivers and fish on behalf of hydroelectric companies.
“The Republican bill allows oil and gas development on sensitive coastal lands and exempts oil and gas drilling sites from water pollution requirements. It includes a variety of taxpayer handouts to oil and gas companies, and protects corporate expatriates that have already moved overseas by grandfathering in their tax breaks.
“And most significantly to those of us from California, this Republican bill strips out some of the few remaining federal protections for electricity consumers. In its place, we would be given a new, untested approach to electricity markets.
“I have a word of warning for my colleagues: ‘Remember California.’ At first, our new competitive electricity market was hailed as a boon for consumers.
“Then came the price spikes and the blackouts, as energy companies learned how to game the system. On two particular days in June of 2000, an energy company shut down power plants to drive up electricity prices. These two days alone cost wholesale energy buyers at least an extra $13.8 million.
“Federal regulators stood by and watched as Californians paid and overpaid to keep the lights on. And we are still paying, and we will continue to pay for years to come.
“Finally, just last month, federal regulators announced that 37 energy companies and utilities violated energy trading rules.
“There will be more indictments and admissions related to manipulative practices in California. But most of the money is gone, never to be recovered.
“And yet, the energy policy the Republicans are bringing forward today will leave consumer all over the country even more vulnerable to the fraudulent and manipulative practices that led to the rolling brownouts and unreasonable prices we experienced in California.
“It repeals an essential federal consumer protection that limits concentration of market power within the utility sector and helps protect ratepayers from the risky investments of the electrical utilities that serve them.
“One of the laws repealed is more crucial today than ever to protect consumers from abuses in the utility industry. It is the law that prevents Enron from owning, and abusing, more than one electric utility.
“Just imagine what would happen if Enron had owned and used two utilities to manipulate prices two years ago.
“This is why it is important to vote for the Dingell amendment which would allow us to retain critical consumer protections and provide the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission broader authority to act against fraud in both electricity and natural gas markets.
“The energy policy in this bill is not worthy of the 21st century. It is a policy mired in the past that offers the American people more of the same bad choices--fewer consumer protections, and greater jeopardy for public health and the environment.
“It is a policy that will lead to greater pollution of our lakes, our rivers, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.
“And, of course, the budget-busting title full of corporate giveaways to oil and gas companies--at the end of the day--will not yield the energy independence we seek for our future.
“We can do better. We can look forward to 2050 instead of backward to 1950. We can bring to the Floor an energy policy that looks toward investment for new technologies, better efficiency standards and conservation policies that will truly lead us down the path to energy independence."
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