Sen. Inhofe Adds Energy Bills to Defense Authorization

In an effort to bring energy policy to the forefront of the national security debate, Oklahoma Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe on Friday submitted two major energy bills as amendments to the $340 billion defense spending authorization bill, which is being taken up by the Senate this week. The amendments include Sen. Frank Murkowski's National Energy Security Act and the energy bill (H.R. 4) House lawmakers passed in July.

"I know there are a lot of members, who are asking why I am pushing the energy policy issue now," Inhofe said in a statement. "Well, as the former chairman and current ranking member of the Readiness Subcommittee, I will state (as I have for years) that energy supply is one of the largest readiness issues our military faces today."

He noted that while total U.S. oil consumption is rising rapidly, domestic production has sharply decreased. "We produce less domestic oil since any time since World War II," he said. He also said that half a million U.S. soldiers today use four times as much oil per day as two million U.S. soldiers used during World War II.

"Currently 56.6% of the U.S. oil needs are met by foreign sources..." Iraq, "the same nation we know has links to bin Laden," is the "fastest growing source of U.S. oil imports. This is a major national security problem."

"We must seek to dramatically increase a domestically produced, diverse energy supply -- including nuclear, coal, oil, gas and renewables.

"...Furthermore, we must also take steps to secure our energy production and other infrastructure. Currently, a terrorist could strike a couple of well thought-out energy infrastructure targets and cripple vast regions of our country. A national energy policy is a key part of our defense strategy."

A spokesman for Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle said Inhofe's plan should be dropped because it could delay Defense spending authorization at a critical time.

Gary Hoitsma, an Inhofe's spokesman, said the Senator realizes there is significant controversy over some of the issues in the bills, particularly drilling on the Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge. "He understands the bills overlap in many respects. He understands there is opposition to certain parts of these bills. But he would like to see if there is some way that they can come to some agreement on some kind of an energy policy this year. It's important to national security.

"The fact that we are going to war heightens the need to address this issue now," the spokesman said. "Inhofe is open to an agreement from the leadership that, if it is not going to be included in the defense bill, at least there would be a date certain when it could come up as a separate bill later in the year."

The intention is to "force a discussion about the importance of national energy policy and the need to do something about it before this year is out," the spokesman added.

He predicted there would be some behind-the-scenes discussions this week about whether it is possible to arrange an agreement to take up energy policy separately later in October. "It could be called up and debated. Whether they push it to a vote still remains to be seen." The Senate's goal is to finish the $340 billion Defense Authorization bill on Wednesday.

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