Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a major policy address on Monday (5/16) to the American Jewish Committee in New York City, called for a bold new energy plan for America to end dependence on foreign oil. Calling it a new “Manhattan Project,” the plan would bring together the sharpest scientific minds, for economic and national security reasons, to revamp our energy priorities.  It would catapult the nation forward and move energy policy into the 21st Century.

“The stakes are obviously much different, but the boldness of the original Manhattan Project is what we need to make the necessary major changes to the way we power our homes, businesses and cars,” said Rep. Engel. In the speech, he touched on several issues in his energy plan, such as the need to reduce gas prices, end our dependence on foreign oil, and end tax breaks for Big Oil. He called for implementing programs to end our dependence of foreign oil, such as his Open Fuel Standards Act.

“I believe that the majority of my House colleagues, the Senate and President Obama all know something must be done and have good ideas on how to do it.  The problem has been the inability to put partisan rhetoric and special interest influence aside and develop a plan to satisfy everyone.  I have worked with my colleagues in the Republican Party over several years in developing the Open Fuel Standard Act.  Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) is my partner on it this year, and I was able to team up with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) in the past.  Good ideas should know no political boundaries, and this is a good idea,” said Rep. Engel.

The Open Fuel Standard Act (HR 1687) requires that 50% of new automobiles in 2012 be capable of operating on another fuel in addition to, or in place of, gasoline. That would include natural gas, electricity, bio-diesel, hydrogen, flex fuel vehicles that can run on blends of methanol and ethanol, or others.  The requirement goes up to 80% in 2016, and 95% in 2017 and every year after. “Flex fuel technology is very cheap, estimates range from $0-$100 per vehicle, and the technology already exists.  The majority of new car sales in Brazil are flex fuel capable.  Brazil has done an outstanding job in preparing for a world post-fossil fuel, and we should not cede international leadership on this issue to them, or to any other nation,” added Rep. Engel.

The bill would allow consumers to decide which type of fuel to use at the pump.  Eventually, if transportation costs continue to skyrocket, Americans can simply switch over to use ethanol or methanol, or any other fuel that is most economical at the time.  That will force OPEC and Big Oil to make gasoline more competitive at the pump, enabling consumers to find relief.

The 12-term Congressman said his legislation would move America away from oil as our primary transportation fuel.  As gas prices continue to rise, the impacts of our dependence upon foreign oil become more acute.  Rising gas prices put limits on the entire American economy by increasing drive, travel, farm, utilities and shipping costs. It forces families to make difficult choices between heating bills, full gas tanks and other necessities like food or medicine.  “In the 1970s, oil embargoes caused gas prices to skyrocket along with calls for reform.  It has only gotten worse. Global prices are driven by Middle East unrest, which today is the highest it has ever been. Now is the time to toss away our links us to these unstable, and often unfriendly, foreign governments and to take control of our own energy needs,” said Rep. Engel.

The U.S. sends $600 billion annually to often hostile nations, with some of that money going to terrorist organizations to be used against us.  While some call for more drilling, the fact is that drilling increased by 66% from 2000-08, but gas prices still tripled. Oil drilling is not a magic elixir.  “In fact, one year after the BP oil spill which killed 11 people and triggered one of the worst environmental disasters in history, Big Oil is still receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks is simply beyond belief. It is outrageous, after BP caused so much damage in the Gulf, that they would take advantage of the current tax code and seek to pass the burden of the clean-up to the American taxpayer.  It’s like adding insult to injury. I have written and co-sponsored several bills that would end the unnecessary tax breaks for oil companies who quite frankly don’t need it,” said Rep. Engel. “In addition, removing these tax breaks will help bring more revenue into our treasury and help bring down our national debt.”

Rep. Engel also addressed the issue of Indian Point, and nuclear power.  Rep. Engel who has long opposed re-licensing Indian Point, which is only 25 miles from the heart of New York City, said, “I believe there is a place for nuclear power in our energy policy, but in light of the nuclear tragedy in Japan, the poor safety record of Indian Point, and its location adjacent to the nations’ largest population center and number one target for radical terrorists, I think the time for nuclear power in the N.Y. metropolitan area has passed. We can develop nuclear power, but we must site the plants away from major population centers,” said Rep. Engel.

“America has always been able to make the hard decisions needed to solve problems, and today we are no different. Together we can do the right thing for the future of our country, economically, environmentally, and for our own security. I think the answer is close at hand, we just have to have the will to find it,” said Rep. Engel.