July 19, 2005

Energy Conference Committee Fails to Take Important Step to Reduce U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil

Wyden pushes substantive amendment to increase automobile fuel efficiency standardsover 5 years, reduce America's 'terror tax'

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the House-Senate Energy Conference Committee, expressed regret at the committee's failure to adopt an amendment he offered today that would increase automobile industry fuel economy standards by one mile per gallon each year for five years beginning in 2008. Wyden offered the amendment to the 2005 energy bill as a concrete step the conference committee could take to improve the legislation to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and reduce what he has called America's ‘terror tax," or the portion of the price per gallon of gas that is indirectly funneled through foreign governments to Islamist extremists. Despite an emerging consensus among experts and policy makers from both ends of the political spectrum about the need for better fuel standards, the average fuel economy of cars on America's roads today has declined to the lowest levels in 20 years. As of today, the energy bill currently contains no significant provisions to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. "Congress should be taking steps now to improve America's outdated energy policies rather than simply maintaining the status quo," said Wyden. "Improving fuel economy standards in the transportation sector is one of the most effective tools for reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and the conference committee has failed to improve America's energy and national security by rejecting this modest, but important proposal." A National Academy of Sciences report commissioned by Congress in 2001 found that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improved the nation's terms of trade and reduced emissions of carbon dioxide by seven percent since Congress passed CAFE nearly 30 years ago. According to the report, "gasoline consumption and crude oil imports would be about 2.8 million barrels per day greater than it is today" without CAFE's mandated increase in fuel economy. Recent public opinion surveys have found that the vast majority of Americans want the government to develop new energy technologies and require the auto industry to make cars and trucks get better gas mileage. 92 percent of those surveyed cited America's dependence on foreign oil as a "serious problem." In the wake of the London transit bombings, Wyden spoke regarding the "terror tax" Americans pay for our nation's dependence on foreign oil. Wyden discussed how funds find their way from American consumers' gasoline purchases to extremists who wish to attack the U.S. and other democracies. To read Wyden's speech, go to http://wyden.senate.gov/media/speeches/2005/07112005_end_terror_tax.html