Hello, this is Senator
Barack Obama and today is Thursday, May 11, 2006.
The other day I went to
the gas station. Gas was $3.08 a gallon in the station where I stopped.
It is rough on Americans across the country right now. Chicago has
some of the highest gasoline prices in the country. I'm fortunate
that I am able to afford spending $50 on a tank of gas; there are
a lot of families out there that can't. People who have to drive
to work long distances, people who don't have the money to buy more
fuel-efficient cars right now and they've seen their standard of
living drop substantially as a consequence of higher gas prices.
Now, the only thing as
predictable as rising gas prices are the short-term political solutions
that usually come along with them. Every year you had the same headlines,
"Pain at the Pump" and then Americans start emptying their
wallets to fill up their tanks and politicians go through the standard
responses: tax rebates and tax holidays, investigating price-gauging
None of these proposals
are going to do any harm. Some will provide Americans temporary
relief at the pump, but, in the long term, we can't keep on relying
solely on quick fixes designed to placate an anxious public. We
need proactive solutions that are designed to lessen our dependence
on foreign oil and bring down prices for good. Washington privately
understands this but perhaps because of the influence of the oil
companies, some of it having to do with ideology, Washington has
just been unwilling to take the hard steps necessary to confront
what I consider to be one of the most pressing economic and national
security challenges in the 21st century. So, the time for excuses
is over. Now's not the moment where we should be afraid of what
is going to seem politically difficult or controversial. Now's the
time to call for innovation and sacrifice from those institutions
that can make a difference: the auto industry, the oil industry,
the federal government.
The first place to start
is with cars. We've got to build cars that use less gasoline. The
auto industry hasn't been asked to raise fuel-economy standards
in seventeen years and frankly, lately Republicans and Democrats
seem to have stopped asking. Today, we've got no choice. Starting
in 2008, we should raise CAFE standards (that's the fuel-efficiency
standards on cars) a modest 3 percent a year. If we did that over
the next 12 years, by 2020 passenger vehicles would average 40 miles
per gallon, light trucks would average 32 miles per gallon. That's
not a dramatic increase; it's easily achievable through existing
technology and it can be done without compromising passenger safety.
Now, there are going to
be transition costs involved in making more fuel-efficient automobiles,
especially for Detroit, which has relied heavily on the sale of
SUVs for its profits. So I've proposed what I call the "Healthcare
for Hybrids" bill, where we'd strike a grand bargain with U.S.
auto-makers. We tell them we're going to pickup part of the tab
for the retiree healthcare costs, a tab which, by the way, ran 6.7
billion dollars last year but, in exchange, you've got to use the
money to invest in transitioning to fuel-efficient cars. So that
would be point number one.
Point number two: we should
just replace the use of oil altogether as America's fuel of choice.
This doesn't mean singing the praises of ethanol, and hoping that
it finds its way into our fuel supply on its own. It means taking
some serious steps now to put a national bio-fuel infrastructure
into place. Already some cars on the road have flexible fuel tanks
necessary for them to run on E85, which is a cheaper, cleaner blend
of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. But millions upon
millions of cars still don't have these tanks. So its time for auto-makers
to install those tanks in every single car that they make and the
government can help cover this small cost which currently runs at
just around $100 per car. It's also time to start making E85 fueling
stations more available to the American public. Currently only 681
out of the 170,000 fueling stations in America offer E85 pumps.
That's not acceptable. Every American should have the choice when
they pull up to fill up their car with E85. That should be true
at any fueling station and the oil companies should stop standing
in the way and join us in making this happen. If the big oil companies
would devote just one percent of their first quarter profits this
year to install E85 pumps, more than 7,000 service stations would
be able to serve E85 to motorists who could use it.
Finally, we need to reduce
the risk of investing in renewable fuels by providing loan guarantees
and venture capital to those entrepreneurs with the best plans to
develop cell-bio fuel and we should start creating a market for
renewable fuels by ramping up the renewable fuel standard and creating
an alternative diesel standard in this country, a national standard,
that together would blend 65 billion gallons of renewable fuels
into the petroleum supply every year.
If we had taken all these
steps decades ago, like Brazil did when the call for energy independence
was first issued, we'd be immune right now to the whims of oil-rich
dictators and surging gas prices. If we don't take these steps now
there's going to be a day when we look back at that $3.05 or $3.15
gasoline as the good old days. At some point there's not going to
be a tax rebate that's big enough or a tax holiday that's long enough
to solve these problems. The American people shouldn't have to wait
for this day to come. When it comes to reducing our dependence of
foreign oil, the resources are there, the technology is there, the
demand is there. Now we just need a little bit of political will
and I hope that you guys will help me provide it.
Thanks for downloading
and listening to the podcast. I will talk to you soon. Bye-bye.