This week Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) delivered the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address. The general topic of Cantwell’s remarks was energy reform, but more specifically it was increasing the fuel efficiency of America’s automobiles. “Clean energy should be more than just a slick marketing campaign from oil companies in a TV commercial. Instead, Congress needs to take America’s hope for clean energy plan and turn it into reality. Americans do want cars that get a hundred miles per gallon. They could be in production today. And Americans want cars that can run on alternative fuel. There are millions of them today, but just in another country. And Americans wants to see the federal government using energy more efficiently and saving tax payers billions of dollars. That too could be happening today,” Cantwell said.

She went on to talk about the much ignored subject of the economic impact of high gas prices. “But right now, high gas prices are hitting us hard. They cost us jobs, and every time oil goes up 10 percent, we lose almost 150,000 American jobs. Those high prices also make it impossible for small businesses to get by. America’s heartland, already operating on razor-thin margins, is spending more on fuel and fertilizer than some farmers can make by selling their crops.” She then discussed the Democrats energy bill. “We want to keep more energy dollars in America’s pocketbook. That’s why last week Senate Democrats began working to pass our bipartisan energy bill. We are working to make cars and trucks go further on a gallon of gas and making sure we get more from the light, heat, and water we already use. By improving energy efficiency, our bill can save Americans billions of dollars every year.”

She also called on President Bush to help Democrats gain Republican Congressional support for the bill. “America deserves more fuel-efficient cars and the President called for more miles per gallon in his State of the Union, and Democratic leaders support that. But the only way consumers are going to get more out of a tank of gas is if the President and his party help deliver votes in a narrowly divided Congress. We all remember Enron, and when electricity markets were manipulated, natural gas markets have been manipulated. And crude oil markets are now under investigation. After Katrina, a number of states and the Federal Trade Commission found evidence of price-gouging. And that is why a strong law is needed to say that the manipulation of supply and demand to drive up gas prices is wrong and is a federal crime.”

Supporters of the energy bill are facing some stout and well funded support from the utility companies, coal and oil companies, and the auto industry. The auto industry has been lobby both Republicans and Democrats hard against increased miles per gallon requirements that they say they can’t meet. The energy bill would increase car mpg requirements by 7.5 from the current 27.5 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020. The standard would be even higher for trucks and SUVs. It would go up from the current 22.5 to 35 mpg, but the auto industry is pushing for a standard of 36 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks and SUVs by 2025. President Bush has already said that he opposes setting a new fuel standard, and these are three of the more powerful lobbies in the Capitol, so my guess is that the auto industry will get their way, or if the Democrats pass their version, the president will veto the energy bill.

Full text of Cantwell’s remarks 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 6:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at
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