Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) encouraged Americans to help end America’s dependence on foreign oil and announced that he will introduce a bill in Congress to achieve those objectives during an address in Gaston Hall last Friday.
“It’s time to get angry and fight back,” Lieberman said. “It is time to call your senator, your representative and your president and tell them you want change. It is time to set America free.”
Lieberman’s address, given before an audience of students, faculty, members of academia from outside Georgetown and Lieberman’s staff, was delivered as the Loewy Memorial Lecture in Science, Technology and International Affairs.
In response to record-breaking gas prices this summer combined with the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the nation’s oil supply, Lieberman stressed the need for alternative energy sources. He said that “a different storm” is brewing with regard to America’s reliance on foreign sources of crude oil.
“It is forming as we speak over the steaming sands of the iddle East, the frozen tundra of Siberia, the equatorial east coast of Africa and rain forests of South America, and drying up oil reserves in the U.S.,” he said.
He noted that the United States supplies just 2.5 percent of the world’s oil reserves, and said that this reliance on foreign sources of oil creates jeopardizing circumstances for U.S. foreign policy by forcing competition with increasingly powerful nations like China and India, as well as far less politically stable nations. He added that global oil production is likely to peak in the near future, which he said will lead to higher prices, tighter competition and shortages.
Lieberman announced that he will soon introduce a bill in Congress that will respond to these issues by striving to reduce consumption of oil by 5 million barrels a day within 10 years, and 10 million barrels a day within 20 years.
Lieberman said his bill will achieve this goal by transforming the country’s transportation infrastructure, calling for more hybrid, hybrid-electric plug-in, or alternative-fuel automobiles. He said he hopes that 10 percent of cars in the United States will be of one of those types within two years and 50 percent of cars will be of one of those types in seven years.
The alternative potential sources of energy highlighted in Lieberman’s bill include agricultural waste, sugar, corn and prairie grass, all of which he said can be turned into “home-grown fuel.”
“By including a mass-production mandate for alternative fuel vehicles . my bill will ensure that the investments would be made in the facilities to produce and market these new fuels by providing big demand for them,” he said.
Lieberman cited Brazil as having a self-sufficient energy policy from which the United States can learn. The nation responded to the oil shocks of the 1970s with a long-term strategy that included the creation of mandates, which forced the use of alcohol in their fuel. Today, Lieberman noted that 40 percent of Brazil’s energy needs are served by biofuels.
He added, however, that Brazil has a booming sugar cane industry, which helped attain this level of fuel efficiency.
Considering the possibilities of similar measures in the United States, Lieberman said, “If we do this right, our farmers could soon be measuring production in barrels of energy as well as bushels of food. Our energy would be guaranteed `Made in America’ and the profits would be guaranteed `Kept in America.'”
Anticipating questions over the feasibility of his proposal, Lieberman said that it was not a “pie in the sky” proposal and could be achieved with the right leadership.
“These vehicles could be in your garage within a couple of years,” he said of vehicles powered by alternative sources of energy.
He called upon the American public to assist in achieving these goals by voicing their discontent with booming gas prices. Although he noted that there will always be a “do-nothing crowd,” he urged the rest of the American public to avoid making the problem worse by letting gas prices climb even higher.
Lieberman’s speech came a day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a separate energy bill relaxing environmental restrictions on refineries located in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.
The event was co-sponsored by STIA and Lecture Fund.