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Brian S.
Democrat HI

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  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Brian Schatz

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    SCHATZ. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Ernst). Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. SCHATZ. Madam President, I rise today in opposition to S. 1, which will circumvent the administration's official review process for projects crossing international borders and approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a pipeline dedicated to increasing production of some of the dirtiest, most polluting, and most dangerous crude oil in the world.

    Supporters of this pipeline in Congress have been relentless. Over the last 2 Congresses they have held 44 votes in the House and Senate intended to approve Keystone. On Tuesday, the very first bill the new Republican majority introduced, traditionally reserved for a party's highest legislative priority, was Keystone. Think about this. Here we stand in what people still call the world's greatest deliberative body, and the first bill we are taking up is not infrastructure generally, not national energy policy, not even national laws as they relate to our pipeline infrastructure. No, we are legislating about a specific pipeline which will move oil from Canada through the United States to be primarily exported from our southern border.

    I understand there are people of good will and good faith, including the Presiding Officer, who are on both sides of this issue. But it is hard to imagine why this should be the first piece of legislation we take up in this Congress. We have yet to seriously consider or to clarify our policy with respect to the Islamic State. Income inequality is gutting the middle class. Our national infrastructure needs a jolt of investment. Our immigration policy is a failure and a mess. I do not understand why this would be S. 1.

    Supporters of this bill have stood up three main arguments in favor of Keystone and expanding drilling of tar sands oil reserves in Canada. One, they say it will increase energy security; two, they think it will lower oil and gas prices; third, they say it is a jobs bill.

    Let's examine these claims, because however tenuous they were, they have been undermined further by facts over the last couple of years.

    First, the United States has never during the modern age of global energy trade been more energy secure. We import far less oil from unstable regimes and unfriendly countries than we have in decades. We are continuing to build massive amounts of ever cheaper homegrown clean energy such as wind [[Page S138]] and solar, even as we use our energy more efficiently.

    The United States will add nearly 10 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity in the next year. Not including hydro, the United States has over 85,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity and continues to build on that number year over year. The prices for solar have dropped 80 percent since 2008 and prices for wind power, which are already competitive with fossil fuels, have dropped 30 percent since 2008.

    These trends are creating jobs right here at home. For example, the wind industry has over 500 manufacturing facilities across 44 States that are responsible for making wind turbines with over 66 percent domestic content.

    Second, the recent collapse of crude oil and gasoline prices demonstrates two things. In my home State of Hawaii, energy prices remain far too high. But on the mainland, oil and gas prices are currently very low. The idea that Keystone would make a significant difference was never based in reality, but now it is just obvious. We have low prices and the project has not even started.

    Gasoline is now $2.21 a gallon. Crude oil prices have slipped below $50 a barrel. The last time gasoline prices were this low was in the aftermath of the financial crisis. As a practical matter, it is not clear to me, and it is certainly not clear to most energy experts, how moving oil from Canada through the United States and exporting refined crude from the Gulf of Mexico would significantly reduce energy prices for us in the United States.

    Finally, this is called a jobs bill by some. This is many things. It is anti-clean air; it is anti-clean water; it is anti-public health. It is a regulatory earmark. But it is not a jobs bill. It is not deserving of being the No. 1 priority of the 114th Congress.

    We have heard estimates ranging as high as 42,000 indirect or induced jobs during the construction phase. We know, and everyone seems to agree, that Keystone will employ approximately 35 full-time employees when construction is finished. That is not 3,500 employees. That is not 35,000 employees. That is the 35 full-time employees when construction is completed.

    If we want to do a real jobs bill worthy of the Senate, we should do a real jobs bill. An infrastructure bank, a highway bill, Shaheen- Portman--all would create orders of magnitude more jobs than this.

    The American economy added 353,000 jobs in November alone, which made 2014 the strongest year for job growth since 1999. If we pass a highway bill, we get millions of jobs. If we pass an infrastructure bank, we will get hundreds of thousands of jobs. If we pass the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, we will also get hundreds of thousands of jobs. Look, even one new job is a good thing. But if we want to do a jobs bill, let's do a jobs bill.

    There is plenty of room for us to work together on infrastructure, on energy efficiency, and create hundreds of thousands and even millions of jobs. But this is an energy bill. It moves us in the wrong direction. There are colleagues, with whom I agree, who are arguing against this legislation primarily saying they want to allow the administration's process to play out and that we should not supersede the State Department review. I agree.

    It is fair to say this is unprecedented, even a little strange, for the Congress to legislate the specifics of a particular infrastructure project. But I want to be clear. This is not a process argument for me. I oppose Keystone because it is a bad idea. Whether it is done through the regular order or in an expedited fashion, whether it is done through the administrative process or the legislative process, I oppose any action, whether through legislation, litigation, or administrative action, that will enable the extraction of Canadian tar sands oil.

    My reasons are very simple--climate change and math. Climate change, because it is the greatest and most urgent challenge to the health of our families, to the economy, and to our way of life. I want to preserve the American way of life, not endanger it. Math, because we have crunched the numbers and we know we simply cannot afford to burn the oil from tar sands and put its pollution into the air.

    It is simple. We have a budget. Just as every family in this country must stick to its budget and live within its means, we have to do the same as a planet when it comes to carbon pollution. A new study published last week in the scientific journal Nature makes this clear. The authors asked the question: If we want to stay within our carbon budget and limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, which is the limit 167 countries agree we must meet to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change, how much more coal, gas, and oil can we burn? The study finds that in order to meet this goal, the majority of the world's known reserves of fossil fuel must stay in the ground between now and 2050. This includes one-third of the world's current oil reserves and 80 percent of current coal reserves. It also finds, and this is critical, that: Any increase in unconventional oil production-- Which includes Canadian tar sands.

    --is incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

    As we learn more about climate change amidst a clean energy revolution, we find that moving toward clean energy, taking control of our future, is good for business. Our economy will do better. It will grow faster and it will be more resilient if we embrace the technologies and solutions at our fingertips and end our reliance on fossil fuel. We have a chance to embrace the future here. Our future is not tar sands oil. Our future is wind and solar and geothermal and energy efficiency. Our future is not in adding carbon pollution. Our future is in innovating our way out of this problem. Throughout our history, America always leads when we are needed the most. That is what we have to do, not in the direction of more carbon pollution but toward a clean energy economy.

    A report by New Climate Economy, a group chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and including Bank of America chairman Chad Holliday, among others, marshals quantitative evidence to show that action on climate change is a requirement for future global economic growth. In other words, those who warn about the EPA regulation or prices on carbon killing jobs have it exactly backward. The truth is that in order to avoid major disruptions to our economy, we have to reduce carbon pollution and work with other countries such as Canada to ensure that they do the same.

    I am looking forward to the open amendment process on this bill that the majority leader has promised. It will be an opportunity for the American public to see where Members of the Senate stand on the facts of climate change. Anyone who looks at the facts and does the math ought to oppose this bill and oppose construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. For me and for many Americans, a vote against this bill is a vote to preserve and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. It is a vote to ensure that we continue to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change. It is a vote to leave our children a healthy world.

    I urge my colleagues to oppose cloture on the motion to proceed.

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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