Jewish Journal

Reduce Oil Demand

by Rep. Henry Waxman

Posted on Apr. 3, 2003 at 7:00 pm

The following are remarks and an amendment introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on March 19 to the House Energy Subcommittee that propose an alternative energy strategy for the United States.

Mr. Chairman, I'd like to offer the "Keeping Faith With Our American Soldiers" Amendment, which is at the desk.

In the next few days, more than 200,000 young American men and women are stepping forward to defend freedom. They stand ready, if they have to, to put their lives on the line and make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

None of us in this room or in Washington are standing in their shoes. We don't face a fraction of the risks they do. So it is our responsibility -- in fact, our obligation -- to make sure we are standing behind them in every way possible.

Of course, our most basic duty is making sure we do all we can to keep them out of harm's way. They are ready to sacrifice everything; our job is to do everything we can to make that sacrifice unnecessary.

That's why I'm offering this amendment today. A few weeks ago [Louisiana Republican] Rep. Tauzin noted that it was "insane" that we were sending $20 million a day to Iraq even as the United States prepares to attack.

Well, it is obscene that we've been sending over $5 billion per year to Iraq, and it's dangerous that so many people in our country believe this war is about oil.

My amendment helps make sure that war in the Middle East will not be about oil. It says to our young men and women that they will not have to risk their lives for oil. And it makes sure that American dollars aren't financing repressive, anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East.

Our nation produces 3 percent of the world's oil, but we consume 25 percent of the world's oil. That dependence on foreign oil is bad for us and also stifling to political and economic progress in the oil-exporting nations. The oil nations in the Mideast are the richest countries in the world, with the poorest, most disenfranchised people.

Today, more than 70 percent of all exports and investment in the Arab world are tied to the oil industry. Those governments have had no incentive to invest in other industrial sectors, in education, or to diversify their workforce with women. Their unwillingness to modernize is a driving force behind the unemployment, unrest and resentment feeding Islamic extremism.

My amendment is a small but important step in changing that reality. It requires the federal government to propose, finalize and implement a plan to reduce U.S. demand for oil by 600,000 barrels a day. This is the average amount of oil we have imported every day from Iraq over the past five years.

The amendment focuses on oil consumption by all sectors of the economy. This allows the administration to seek the oil reductions in the smartest ways possible. Improving CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards is one option, but vehicles subject to CAFE only represent 40 percent of our oil consumption. This amendment will allow the agencies to focus on all sources and come up with the best plan possible to increase efficiencies and reduce demand.

And if the agencies' existing authorities are inadequate, it expressly allows the agencies to request new authorities from Congress.

A couple of years ago, Vice President Cheney told California that we couldn't conserve our way out of the energy crisis. But here's what happened in California: Energy companies manipulated supply and prices went through the roof. Gov. Davis challenged Californians to reduce demand by 10 percent. And with no lead time to make and execute plans, Californians reduced demand by more than 10 percent. Despite widespread criminal conduct by energy executives, we were able to conserve our way out of that crisis.

It was a remarkable effort that for reasons I don't understand, almost no one in Washington wants to acknowledge.

My amendment requires far less of all Americans. It translates to a 2.5 percent reduction in oil demand, and we allow for a year to finalize a plan and six years to implement it.

In absolute terms, this is a modest amendment. It asks almost nothing from those of us who remain safe at home while our troops risk their lives. But in symbolic terms for the young men and women preparing to fight in Iraq, the significance of this amendment is incalculable.

If this subcommittee isn't ready for this small step, I don't know how we can look our brave men and women in the eye when they come home.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

Democrat Henry Waxman represents the 30th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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