'There are two fundamentally different approaches when it comes to America's energy future'

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), in remarks on the Senate floor after Democrats introduced their energy bill as an amendment to flood insurance legislation on May 8.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), in remarks on the Senate floor after Democrats introduced their energy bill as an amendment to flood insurance legislation on May 8:

"There are two fundamentally different approaches when it comes to America's energy future between the Democratic side and the Republican side. The Democratic side believes that first we have to do everything we can to protect consumers of America from price gouging. We know what is happening. We cannot go to Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky or Colorado and not run into people saying we cannot understand why gasoline prices are so high.

"We know the price of a barrel of oil has gone up to record high levels because of price manipulation by the Saudis, OPEC and other countries, and the Republican approach to this totally ignores it. We know the oil companies across the United States last week reported record profits in the first quarter of this year. Since President Bush came to office, the profits of the oil companies have more than quadrupled and the price of gasoline has more than doubled.

"Does the Republican approach even address this? The answer is no. We have, in the Democratic approach, a windfall profits tax which says to these oil companies: There is a limit beyond which you cannot go in gouging consumers and overcharging them for your products. As airlines are faced with bankruptcy, as truckers cannot afford to fill their rigs on the highways, as the cost of energy is passed on to us as higher food prices and the like, it is absolutely unconscionable that the oil companies continue to show record profits quarter after quarter, year after year, at the expense of our economy.

"The Democratic approach deals with that. We go to the fundamentals. The windfall profits tax says to the oil companies: There is a limit to what you can take. Beyond that, the government is going to tax you and make it clear to you that raising prices is not the answer.

"Second, we are going to stop putting more oil at high prices into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. If there ever was a time we should not be taking oil off the market, this is that time. We also provide in our bill for going after this OPEC coalition, the price collusion that is going on at the expense of the American economy.

"We deal with price gouging to make sure the companies that engage in it know they are going to pay a heavy price for that kind of conduct. And we go after speculation, if it is excessive, to try to make sure we fuel any fires of speculation that might be adding to the cost of energy.

"What do the Republicans offer in return? Drilling, drilling, drilling. They do not understand one fundamental fact: The United States has within its grasp, in our territory and territory we control, only 3% of the world's supply of oil. Each year, we consume 25% or more of oil produced. We cannot drill our way out of this situation.

"We have to stop price gouging on consumers. We have to hold oil companies accountable, and I think the Republican approach does neither. I am looking forward to this debate. I assume that by early next week, we will have a vote and the American people will see where we stand."

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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