When Congress convenes on Monday, if the country’s financial system isn’t in a complete free-fall, lawmakers plan to take up a comprehensive energy bill aimed at easing voters’ fears over this summer’s oil shock. Of course, it’s been 30 years since Jimmy Carter warned of a “national catastrophe” and urged America to wean itself off fossil fuel — even before Global Warming was a glint in climatologists’ eyes — but this is America. Why tackle an impending crisis over decades when you can put it off to the very last minute?
Within this partisan climate — fresh on the heels of a royal stunt staged by a handful of House Republicans earlier this summer, when they grandstanded in a darkened House chamber after everyone else had gone home — Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar delivered the weekly Democratic radio address on Saturday, calling on Republicans to drop the slogans and solve the problem.
Let’s start, Salazar suggested, “with being honest about our energy future. We consume 25 percent of the world’s oil, but we have less than 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We simply can’t drill our way to energy independence.” Of course, this won’t sit well with the “Drill, baby, drill!” crowd (was there ever a less catchy chant to emerge from a national convention?).
Democrats rightly point to explosive growth in domestic drilling since Bush came to power — Salazar correctly notes 34,000 active natural gas wells pump away in Colorado, a record — but also stand firm: “… drilling alone is not sufficient,” Salazar said.
Salazar has joined with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to break apart a logjam threatened by House Republicans, who saw their poll numbers turn favorable when they hammered Democrats over off-shore drilling as gas passed $4 a gallon.
“Replace the oil we import from countries that don’t like us with alternative energy sources that we produce right here at home,” Salazar said. “Biofuels. Wind. Solar. Hydrogen. Geothermal. Clean Coal. American energy, American jobs.”
He closed with a political challenge: “Republicans have to decide whether they just want to talk about our energy problems on the campaign trail, or whether they will work with Democrats to actually solve them.”
Listen to Salazar’s radio address here.
Here’s the complete text of the address Salazar delivered:
Good morning, I’m United States Senator Ken Salazar from Colorado. I grew up on a ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. My family has farmed that place now for five generations. Before that, they helped found the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1598.
“Over the last few weeks, I was back home on our ranch and traveling through most of Colorado. Everywhere I went, you see the effects of the last eight years. Jobs are disappearing. Health care is costing too much. And the cost of energy is through the roof. For farmers, diesel is costing more than four dollars a gallon. We simply can’t afford it any more. Enough is enough.
“Democrats are working for change, and it starts with being honest about our energy future. We consume 25 percent of the world’s oil, but we have less than 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We simply can’t drill our way to energy independence.
“In Colorado, we’re doing our part on drilling. We have more than 34,000 active gas wells. And we’re going to drill a whole lot more in the coming years.
“But we also know that drilling alone is not sufficient. Yet that was the only idea that John McCain and his friends at the Republican National Convention offered. ‘Drill, baby, drill’ — that’s not enough. We need it all.
“We need to replace the oil we import from countries that don’t like us with alternative energy sources that we produce right here at home. Biofuels. Wind. Solar. Hydrogen. Geothermal. Clean Coal. American energy, American jobs. That’s what we need.
“With the help of our farmers and ranchers and with Americans’ hard work and ingenuity, we can grow our way to energy independence. To do it, though, we have to pass the tax incentives for renewable energy that Senator McCain and Republicans in the Senate have been blocking and opposing for months and years. We need an Apollo project that retools Detroit so that we can run our cars on the alternative fuels that we develop. And we need to give consumers a choice at the pump. Why not fill up with biofuels, if they’re cheaper than gas? Why not have cars that get 100 miles to a gallon?
“Democrats are trying to solve these problems because we believe and know we can. President Bush and John McCain do not. All they want is more of the same.
“This week in the Senate, that choice will be clear as day. Democrats will be offering comprehensive energy solutions.
“I’m part of a small group of Senators from both parties who are working together to find bipartisan solutions to energy that we can all agree upon. But the thing is this: it’s going to take more than a handful of Republicans who agree that we need a comprehensive energy plan. President Bush and Senator McCain have failed to show any leadership on this issue for the last eight years.
“Republicans have to decide whether they just want to talk about our energy problems on the campaign trail, or whether they will work with Democrats to actually solve them. If you’re tired of $4 gasoline, if you’re tired of a whole lot of talk without any action, if you’re saying enough is enough, I hope you will tell President Bush, Senator McCain, and Members of Congress that it is time for honest solutions to our energy problems.
“This is United States Senator Ken Salazar from Colorado. Have a wonderful weekend.”