Hoyer Announces Move To Eliminate Our Addiction To Foreign Sources Of Oil - Southern Maryland Headline News

Hoyer Announces Move To Eliminate Our Addiction To Foreign Sources Of Oil

If successful, plan could lead to energy independence which would eliminate Oil Cartel's economic stranglehold on U.S., eliminate the need for oil wars, make a major impact in Global Warming crisis, and bring new jobs to the U.S.

By PATRICIA M. MURRET, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON - In a week where oil prices hit a two-month high on Wall Street and the U.S. entered high-level talks with Iran, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-So. Md., yesterday unveiled an energy bill designed to strengthen national energy independence and help combat global warming.

The measure proposes an advanced vehicle efficiency program on the scale of the Manhattan Project, the mammoth World War II multi-national program to develop the first nuclear weapon, and would increase federal commitment to using alternative fuels.

"We simply cannot ignore our addiction to foreign sources of oil any longer," Hoyer said, echoing a favorite phrase of President Bush in a news conference Thursday.

In January, when Congress passed the CLEAN Energy Act as part of the Democrats' 100 Hours Agenda, Hoyer called the measure, which redirects billions in oil subsidies toward the development of renewable energy, alternative fuels, and oil conservation and efficiency programs, a "first step" in changing U.S. energy policy.

The Program for Real Energy Security Act, authored by Hoyer, is apparently another leap.

The measure, announced Thursday by Hoyer and fellow Democrats, complements other Democratic efforts on energy, Hoyer said.

"And, in short, it would initiate a robust national program—akin to the Manhattan Project on energy independence."

The PROGRESS Act will be introduced to Congress Monday, Hoyer said, with the support of at least 100 co-sponsors. Last July, Hoyer introduced virtually identical legislation with 129 co-sponsors, but the measure did not succeed in the Republican-led Congress.

The PROGRESS Act has five components, Hoyer said.

It would establish a bipartisan National Energy Security Commission of government, industry and academic leaders to develop national energy goals and would establish a new "Manhattan Center for High Efficiency Vehicles," a nationally sponsored program seeking to double the average vehicle efficiency and to diversify fuel types.

The measure would also enact a biofuels infrastructure development program, providing grants to encourage the private sector to invest in wholesale and retail biofuel pumps, tanks and related distribution equipment.

In addition, it calls for upgrading the freight rail system, the nation's "pipeline" for biofuels, Hoyer said, and would provide grants to promote national oil conservation alternatives, like public transit and commuter rail systems.

Last, the measure would increase the use of alternative fuels in federal fleets, said Hoyer, who for security reasons is chauffeured in a flex-fuel car, which is capable of running on regular gasoline, ethanol or a combination thereof. Hoyer is also responsible for placing the first pump dispensing E-85 fuel, a high-proportion ethanol-gasoline mix, on the Capitol Hill complex.

The PROGRESS Act is an important national security measure, said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., a former member of the House Armed Services Committee. Last year, the Defense Department spent $10.6 billion dollars in basic energy costs, $4.7 billion of which was used to fuel Air Force planes.

"We are borrowing money from China to fund our defense budgets to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to fuel our weapons to protect us from China and the Persian Gulf," Israel said. "It's not an absurdity. It's a fundamental vulnerability."

The federal measure coincides with Maryland legislative efforts this week to impose more stringent emission standards and increase the gas tax in Maryland.

Complete Press Release From Congressman Hoyer's Office

Says PROGRESS Act Critical to Maryland's Economy, Security and Environment

WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) today unveiled his Program for Energy Security (PROGRESS) Act, a comprehensive package of measures that represent a major national effort to make substantial gains in technology, conservation and vehicle efficiency, and the use of alternative fuels. The legislation, which was first introduced in the 109th Congress and is designed to compliment the Democrats' Innovation Agenda and the Democratic Rural Working Group's Biofuels Plan, will be reintroduced on Monday, with 100 original cosponsors - nearly a quarter of U.S. House members.

"It is time for America to engage in a "Manhattan style" project that brings government, business, and the science and environmental communities to the table to promote and expand alternative energy sources and make more efficient vehicles that burn cleaner fuels," Hoyer said. "The PROGRESS Act is vital to our economic and national security and to keeping our nation and the State of Maryland strong, stable, and secure into the future."

The PROGRESS Act has five major components:

* Establishes a Bipartisan National Energy Security Commission, bringing together government, industry and academic leaders to develop consensus national goals on energy - which Congress must act upon under expedited rules.

* Establishes a New Center for High Efficiency Vehicles, seeking to double the average vehicle efficiency and to diversify fuel types.

* Establishes a National Biofuels Infrastructure Development Program, providing grants to encourage the private sector to invest in wholesale and retail biofuel pumps, tanks, and related distribution equipment.

* Calls for a Stimulus Package to Upgrade the "Pipeline" for Biofuels - the freight rail system- while also providing grants to promote conservation alternatives such as public transit and commuter rail.

* Ensures Federal Government Leadership in the Use of the Alternatives to Oil by increasing the use of alternative fuels in federal and state fleets, developing biofuel plants in every region of the country and speeding development of standards that are needed to promote alternative fuels use.

The PROGRESS Act, which would bring together government, industry and academic leaders to develop national energy goals, stands to compliment and promote several important Maryland energy initiatives, with potential investments in energy infrastructure, research and development, and alternative energy production. For example, both the Maryland State Senate and Assembly voted recently to tighten car emissions rules by requiring manufacturers to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles that produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions. Rep. Hoyer's legislation would create investments in federal science and technology that could help the auto companies meet those goals.

One of the major focuses of the PROGRESS Act is a significant investment in biofuels infrastructure in order to make ethanol and other alternative fuels more available to consumers driving flex cars and hybrid vehicles. Such efforts would work to avoid distribution problems, such as those that occurred last year when there was a switch to "summer blend" fuel in the Mid-Atlantic region, the result of which contributed to higher prices at the pump.

Rep. Hoyer also pointed to rising energy prices and other economic indicators showing how an insufficient national energy policy has increased the burden on Maryland consumers. In the last six years, since President Bush took office, the average price of gasoline has risen from $1.55 to $2.38 per gallon, climbing as high as $3.04 at the peak of oil prices in the summer of 2006; the price of a crude oil per barrel has shot up from $20-$30 to a record $74.40 in July, 2006; and the average amount American families spend on gasoline has increased by a whopping 57 percent, from $1,440 to $2,520.

"Rising energy and gas prices are yet another reminder that our nation needs to rethink its reliance on petroleum and begin changing our economy to one that reduces energy consumption through increased efficiency and conservation and makes greater use of renewable energy sources," added Hoyer.

By establishing a nationwide commitment to energy independence, the PROGRESS Act will work to achieve greater stability in energy and fuel prices in the long-term by diversifying the market to include alternative energy sources and by developing more energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. A diversified fuel market that includes greater shares of clean alternative energies and reduces America's dependence on foreign oil would have widespread benefits to the economy, to the environment, and to America's national security.

"The issue of energy independence is far too important to the future of our children and our nation," Hoyer said. "Fostering a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous America requires that we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It is past due time to achieve real progress for America. I hope to work with my colleagues in the new Congress as well as with President Bush to pass this critical legislation and take action once and for all to achieve energy independence that strengthens our national security, boosts our economy, creates more jobs, and protects our environment for future generations."

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