The Congressional Independence Day recess is here. The amount of time available to pass substantive legislation before both houses adjourn is dwindling.
Between the end of the July 4th Recess and the August Recess, Congress will try to pass the financial reform bill, and the Senate will fulfill its Constitutional duties on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. With all that, the single largest unfinished piece of business for the 111th Congress remains the adoption of a comprehensive energy bill.
I have been around this business for a long time, and I understand that an energy bill is likely to contain a great deal of compromise on key issues. That's the nature of the system -- you have compromise to get the things you really need and serve what you believe to be the greater good. The debate surrounding the balance between our environmental and energy polices, while important, should not delay us from adopting legislation to reduce our dependence on OPEC oil.
We must focus on the amount of oil we continue to import - day-in and day-out - to fuel our national fleets of cars, light trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles. Nobody disagrees on that one.
We can talk about the need for more solar and wind farms to produce energy. I'm all for those. I've said a thousand times since we started working on the Pickens Plan that "I'm for anything American."
But wind, solar energy and seaweed won't move a car, and batteries today won't move an 18-wheeler. Approximately 70 percent of the oil we import is used for transportation. Heavy trucks use about one-third of that. This includes the eight million 18-wheelers, which move goods from ports to distribution centers and from distribution centers to factories and stores. It also includes the tens of thousands of refuse and recycling trucks as well as all those school and municipal buses.
The provisions of the bi-partisan NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1835 and S. 1408) are specifically aimed at reducing our imports of OPEC oil.
The NAT GAS Act would provide tax incentives to build a model for using domestic natural gas as a principal transportation fuel instead of imported diesel. It creates a test for building a domestic, heavy-duty truck fleet based on domestic natural gas through replacing trucks burning imported diesel during the normal course of fleet rotation.
With unemployment stubbornly remaining above nine percent, the federal government should be looking for a sure-fire plan to create private sector jobs. The NAT GAS Act would jump-start the natural gas vehicle (NGV) industry in the United States, creating new jobs throughout the supply chain.
When he accepted the Democratic nomination for President, then-Senator Barack Obama pledged to get America off Middle Eastern oil within ten years.
Two of those years have already gone by. But we can, during the next eight years, meet his goal. President Obama can earn a place in history as the first president in more than 40 years to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
When Congress returns from its Independence Day recess, it must focus on America becoming less dependent on OPEC oil. We need a vote on energy legislation to make America stronger, safer, cleaner, and more prosperous by passing a bill including the provisions outlined in the NAT GAS Act.