Congress Should Focus on Long-Term Solutions

WASHINGTON (July 31, 2006) -- The Senate tonight is expected to vote on a bill that would open eight million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling and divert billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury to just four states.

The following is a statement by Karen Wayland, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"If the Senate were really serious about addressing our energy needs instead of bending over backwards for the oil industry and four states beholden to the oil lobby, it would enact real energy legislation to reduce our dependence on oil and get off-the-shelf energy efficiency technologies into our cars, homes and businesses. "

"The Senate has an oil savings bill before it sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of 28 members, and yet a controversial drill-only bill is what members want to take home with them to their constituents?

The Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act (S. 2025) would create a real plan to boost efficiency in the transportation sector, which accounts for 70% of our current oil consumption. At the same time, the proposal mandates an "oil savings" plan that would conserve 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. The Senate should also extend the energy efficiency tax credits that it enacted in last year's energy bill. Increased energy efficiency using today's technology has the potential to save 234 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, almost three times as much gas as is technically recoverable from all currently protected offshore areas."

Earlier this month, the House passed an even broader offshore drilling bill, which would end a quarter-century ban on drilling off both our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

But key senators, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), have pledged to oppose that approach in a Senate-House conference to reconcile the differences between the two measures. As Reid vowed in an e-mail last week: "If the House does not accept the Senate bill as passed, I will join other senators and Senator Nelson and produce the votes to sustain a filibuster to prevent passage of the bill when it would return to the Senate."