Events, Speeches &
Klobuchar Speaks about Bipartisan Bill with Senator Thune to Reform Support for Renewable Energy
June 13, 2011 | Watch
I'm here with the senator from South Dakota – I first want to thank my colleague from Minnesota for his strong words. I'm here with the senator from South Dakota, Senator Thune, to talk about the legislation that we are introducing today along with several other senators to find a good way to handle this, not the way this has been handled. My colleague from Minnesota talked about Senator Coburn's amendment that we will be voting on tomorrow. I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment.
I believe that, first of all, we need to invest in home-grown energy and that this amendment would abruptly eliminate the VTEC, the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, immediately without any kind of a glide path during this year, so that the people who are directly or indirectly employed in this industry, 450,000 people, when you think about all of the jobs that we work on every single day, just because jobs are in states that maybe some people don't live in, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, these are very important jobs throughout the country. And the other piece of this that I think we can't neglect is the effect that this would have on gas prices.
That being said, both Senator Thune and I understand that this is a situation that needs to change. We're in a difficult budget situation in the Senate and that's why we're introducing legislation today and working with stakeholders and members from both sides of the aisle to find a reasonable solution that offers a responsible and cost-effective approach to reforming our biofuel policy. This bill would transition to a more sustainable model of support for renewable fuel production in America instead of pulling the rug out from under an industry with four days' notice that employs hundreds of thousands of people in this country, and also provides an alternative to oil.
And I think that Senator Thune is here and maybe he would like to address this a bit, we'll go back and forth, but I think one thing that people need to understand is that this biofuel industry has become a major component of our fuel supply. One statistic is that the gasoline that is made from the oil that we import from Canada, people know that's our biggest trading partner from oil, we literally produce as much biofuels as we produce gas from the oil that we import from Canada, so it is a major part of our fuel supply and something that you shouldn't just decide with four days' notice to change the rules of the game when, in fact, as a recent vote showed us, oil is keeping every single cent of their subsidy.
And Senator Thune and I have a bill which basically gives away the subsidies for the rest of the year that the biofuels industry has and puts $1 billion toward deficit reduction, reduction, $1 billion toward deficit reduction, as well as making some investment with the remaining money in the infrastructure that this industry needs to be able to compete on any kind of an even playing field with oil. So I know Senator Thune has some thoughts on this as well and I would like to come back and talk a little bit about what's been going on with oil versus ethanol in this country, but I think it's important to understand that the bill that we're introducing today could be a major help, $1 billion into deficit reduction…
If I could continue, I thank Senator Thune for his work and one point I think he made that is incredibly important, I don't think all of our colleagues understand that this VTEC that has been in place to make sure we have an alternative to oil in this country ends at the end of this year. The one piece of it that continues for another year is the cellulosic research, the cellulosic credit, but the rest of it ends at the end of this year. So instead of looking at a glide path, as suggested in our bill, where you could take $1 billion, put it into deficit reduction, take another $1 billion or so and put that which would be going right now as a credit, put that into the infrastructure, the alternative here that's suggested by our colleague from Oklahoma's amendment is just to cut it off today basically, with a few days' notice.
What I've heard time and time again from businesses, whether in the energy or medical device area, they want certainty. They don't want Washington coming in with one day's notice and changing things. So that's why the bill I asked my colleagues to look at this bill as an alternative. We're glad to discuss details with them and one of the things we tried to do with this bill to acknowledge the emerging field of cellulosic with algae and other forms of research into biofuels, that that would continue into next year, but basically this would end VTEC as you know it the proposal that Senator Thune and I have put forward.
And you look at the comparisons here, over the last few decades, more than $360 billion worth of subsidies have gone to oil companies. That is nearly 10 times greater than the investments we've made in homegrown biofuels. They are set up in a different way - they're set up in a different way but those are the numbers. The jobs with biofuels are jobs made in America. We're basically investing in the farmers of the Midwest instead of the oil cartels of the Mideast. I'm not just a one-size fuel person but I think to disrupt an industry like this with no notice is just the wrong way to go, and I hope that our colleagues will look at our bill seriously, talking to us about this, think about how the gas prices, which have now topped $3.75 per gallon, while they're high now, you look at fact -- "The Chicago Tribune" looked at the fact that if we cease to produce the gallons of ethanol we produce every year it would drive up prices at the pump as much as $1.40 a gallon. I don't think that's something we can afford right now.
So we have put together a good-faith proposal that basically for even those that have a lot of questions about biofuels right now, about ethanol, will have to admit is a dramatic change. It ends vtec as we know it, it puts in a big chunk of change, $1 billion that otherwise would be going to the subsidies this year toward deficit reduction, while still allowing for the infrastructure investment and then looking into next year for just some of the key pieces but severely changing any kind of subsidy for this industry. So with that, I want to thank Senator Thune. I don't know if you have something -- I think our time is ending here -- that you'd like to add…
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor as well. We hope that our colleagues will look at this bill. It is a serious bill and very different than other bills that have been proposed in the past in that it actually takes existing money that was set out at the end of this year and puts a big number -- puts 1 billion -- into debt reduction thank you. Mr. President.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Olcott Plaza, Room 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690