Senator John ThuneThe rising cost of fuel continues to have an impact on the lives of everyone in South Dakota and across the nation, and as Congress returns to session after Independence Day, energy costs are an issue we must address.
The focus of nearly all of my meetings during this past week in South Dakota was energy, specifically the economic impact of high gas prices on South Dakota. I joined tourism officials in Rapid City to discuss the decline in visitors to Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, and the Badlands and what this means for local businesses. In Sioux Falls, I hosted a public meeting with the heads of the South Dakota Trucking Association and the South Dakota Corn Growers to discuss how the cost of doing business is growing at an alarming rate.
I have introduced legislation, the Energy Transition Act of 2008, that seeks not only to address the cost of fuel as it relates to the available supply of oil, but also aims to stimulate the development of technologies that will allow us to finally kick our addiction to oil.
The first part of my legislation addresses America's unexplored petroleum potential in the Outer Continental Shelf and Alaska's North Slope. Both areas have vast proven oil resources and there is great potential to discover more. Technology has evolved to the point where we can extract oil in an environmentally sensitive way. With these advances, the time has come to move forward in using these American resources.
In addition, my legislation would allow for the research and development of oil shale, which has only recently become a viable venture. The oil shale found in Colorado, Utah, and other Western states contains an estimated 2.1 trillion barrels of oil, which is a greater reserve than Saudi Arabia.
What makes my legislation unique is that it takes half of the revenue from new leases in Alaska, the Outer Continental Shelf, and the oil shale states and puts it in an Energy Independence Fund. This fund will be used to promote the development of technologies that will drastically reduce fuel consumption, including improved batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells. My legislation also instructs the Department of Energy to develop a plan that would eliminate the need for non-North American oil imports by 2028.
I believe that biofuels have a significant role to play in reducing our dependence on imported oil. The Energy Transition Act would give cellulosic ethanol producers access to biomass from federal and private forestland, which not only means a greater biofuels supply, but also decreased fire danger. My legislation would also ease some of the regulatory roadblocks that are keeping higher ethanol blends off the market today.
Energy security will not happen overnight, but now is the time to take the necessary steps to increase our domestic oil supply while reducing our consumption. All Americans are paying a heavy price today because leaders failed to act in the past. I believe that we can usher in a new era of energy policy where we control our own destiny and are not subject to the whims of petro-dictators who may not always have our best interest at heart.