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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today called on President Biden to pursue an energy agenda that reduces the United States’ reliance on foreign sources of energy in order to cut costs for South Dakota families. Thune stressed that energy independence is critical to our national security, and he noted that the administration should utilize American agriculture as an energy solution, restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard, and restore the year-round sale of E15.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, as of January, energy prices were up 27 percent across the board.
“Gas prices were up 40 percent from a year ago.
“Natural gas was up 24 percent.
“And fuel oil was up 46 percent.
“High energy prices have a huge impact on our economy.
“Obviously they represent a significant direct burden to Americans trying to fill up their cars or pay their utility bills.
“But they also contribute to price hikes across our economy.
“High gas prices and other energy costs contribute to price increases on a whole host of other goods.
“Manufacturers facing higher transportation costs thanks to high gas prices, for example, are often forced to pass on at least some of those increased costs to consumers in the form of price hikes.
“Mr. President, while Democrats helped create our current inflation crisis with their so-called American Rescue Plan spending spree last March, President Biden is not solely responsible for high energy prices.
“He is responsible, however, for the fact that he is pursuing an energy agenda that is almost guaranteed not only to increase American energy prices long-term but also to increase our reliance on foreign sources of energy.
“Since the day he took office, President Biden has pursued an agenda that is hostile to conventional sources of energy – namely, oil and natural gas.
“When it comes to energy, he has focused almost exclusively on alternative energy technologies – specifically, on electric vehicles, which his administration has clearly picked as its preferred winner in the clean-energy stakes.
“Mr. President, I am a longtime supporter of clean energy.
“In South Dakota, we derive a significant amount of our energy from hydropower and wind.
“In fact, in 2020, 83 percent of our utility-scale generation was renewable, about half from hydro.
“And I have long championed cleaner-burning renewable fuels, like ethanol and biodiesel.
“But the fact of the matter is, our nation is not going to be fully transitioning to 100 percent zero-emission energy any time soon, no matter how much the administration would like it to.
“There are a lot of hurdles to be crossed before we can rely solely on clean energy.
“Consumers first and foremost need affordable and reliable energy supplies – especially consistent baseload energy.
“And clean energy technology has simply not advanced to the point where it needs to be in order for us to rely on clean energy exclusively.
“We are going to need an all-of-the-above energy portfolio for a while yet, including oil and natural gas.
“And it’s a disservice to the American people to pretend otherwise.
“We should absolutely continue to invest in clean energy and pursue clean energy technologies – in a fiscally responsible manner – but we also have to ensure that our nation has the oil and natural gas it needs for our economy to run and for Americans to be able to afford to heat their homes and get where they need to go.
“As I said, since taking office, President Biden has pursued an agenda hostile to conventional energy production.
“He set the tone on his first day in office when he canceled the Keystone XL pipeline – an environmentally responsible pipeline project that was already underway and that was to be paired with $1.7 billion in private investment in renewable energy to fully offset its operating emissions.
“He also almost immediately froze new oil and gas leases on federal lands – sending a clear signal to oil and gas producers that his administration would be reluctant to work with them to increase American energy production.
“And he’s continued along the same lines ever since.
“He seems to think that he can hurry along the clean energy future he dreams of by discouraging oil and natural gas production here at home.
“But he can’t.
“As I said, clean energy sources are simply not at the point where they can solely power American homes and our economy.
“And the only effect of curbing conventional energy production will be to force Americans to rely more on foreign sources for oil and natural gas.
“And that, Mr. President, is a big problem.
“It’s a problem because the more we rely on foreign sources of energy, the more vulnerable Americans are to energy price spikes and global shortages.
“And it’s a problem because relying on foreign sources of energy often means relying on energy from tyrannical governments and volatile areas of the world.
“U.S. imports of Russian energy have spiked during the Biden administration.
“And the current conflict in Ukraine is a reminder of just how big of a problem that is.
“In the first place, the dollars we or other nations spend importing energy from Russia are dollars Russia is free to use to prosecute its unjustified invasion of Ukraine and any other country it decides to attack.
“In the second place, when you rely on another country for your energy needs, you end up beholden to that country.
“While we’ve imposed heavy sanctions on Russia, we have yet to directly sanction Russia’s energy sector.
“And other countries have also held back on sanctioning Russian energy.
“And there’s little question that this reluctance stems from both fears of price hikes as a result of sanctions and from fears of lessening the availability of Russian energy supplies.
“The truth is, we should be sanctioning Russia’s energy sector.
“Energy production is the lifeblood of the Russian economy, and sanctioning Russian energy could be one of the most effective ways of halting Putin’s imperial ambitions.
“And it’s unfortunate that the president has not put our nation on a stronger footing energy-wise, so that we could more easily weather these challenging times.
“Mr. President, the only acceptable American energy policy is an all-of-the-above energy policy that invests in both clean energy technologies and conventional energy sources.
“That’s the only way to keep energy prices down and ensure that Americans’ energy needs are met – no matter what is going on in energy-producing countries around the globe.
“If the president really wants to lower energy prices for American families, as he indicated in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he could reverse his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would be a much-welcome recognition that liquid fuels will be part of our energy composition well into the future.
“He could fast-track environmentally responsible domestic oil and gas production on federal lands.
“He could work to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision that will make it more difficult to get approval for natural gas pipelines.
“He could ensure that the Department of the Interior releases new land for responsible oil and gas development – something the department is required to do quarterly by law.
“He could encourage financial institutions to invest in conventional energy production and reinstate the January 2021 proposed rule that would prevent large American financial institutions from blacklisting the conventional energy sector.
“He could also, finally, get serious about leveraging American agriculture as an energy solution, specifically restoring integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“This means not only setting robust blending targets and rejecting specious small refinery exemptions, but approving advanced fuels from corn kernel fiber and restoring the year-round sale of E15.
“These measures, and others like them, combined with clean-energy investment, would help lower energy prices now and in the future – and help put our nation on a path to long-term, full energy independence.
“It’s the best decision President Biden could make for American families struggling with high energy prices.
“And it’s the best decision he could make for the long-term security of our country.
“I hope he will rethink his hostility to conventional energy production and spend the next year of his administration embracing the kind of all-of-the-above energy strategy our nation needs.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”