Rendell: Record Oil Costs Reinforce Need for Energy Independence Strategy

HARRISBURG – After consecutive record-setting days where oil futures closed above $100 per barrel, and with expectations that oil-cartel nations will cut production in the coming weeks, Gov. Edward G. Rendell said Pennsylvania should be investing in homegrown alternatives rather than continuing to send billions of dollars abroad.

He urged the General Assembly to move swiftly on the PennSecurity Fuels Initiative he unveiled more than a year ago as part of his Energy Independence Strategy.

“It has been 385 days since I first unveiled the Energy Independence Strategy that included the PennSecurity Fuels Initiative,” said Rendell. “In that time, we as a nation have sent nearly $400 billion abroad to purchase gasoline, and much of that money we had to borrow from foreign nations. That kind of financial dependence puts our economy, national security and our way of life at risk.

“We need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and stop sending billions and billions of dollars overseas to oil barons and nations that are controlled by regimes hostile to America’s interests. Instead, we need to start investing in our farmers, manufacturers and transportation sector–all of which play a role in producing and delivering alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to consumers.

“The PennSecurity Fuels Initiative does that — and it keeps more of the $30 billion Pennsylvania spends on liquid fuels from foreign sources each year at home,” said the governor. “I urge the legislature to adopt the plan I put forth more than a year ago that invests in our economy and national security by replacing nearly 1 billion gallons of conventional fuel with homegrown alternatives.”

The Governor’s PennSecurity Fuels Initiative, part of his Energy Independence Strategy, is now before a special session of the legislature. The plan calls Pennsylvania to produce and consume nearly 1 billion gallons of homegrown, renewable transportation fuels annually, including ethanol, biodiesel and coal-derived fuels—a target amount that will equal the amount of fuel Pennsylvania is expected to import from the Persian Gulf region by 2017. The House of Representatives overwhelming approved Rendell’s proposal in June (138-60). It has yet to be acted on in the Senate.

Crude oil for March delivery closed at $100.74 per barrel today on the New York Mercantile Exchange, which topped the record set Tuesday when the futures price settled at $100.01 per barrel. Today’s closing price is 74 percent higher than one year ago.

Along with the increase in crude oil prices, heating oil futures also reached new highs, which the Governor said could further hurt the pocket books of citizens.

“Our citizens are already paying more than $3 per gallon at the pump in most places,” said Rendell. “If we experience an especially cold March, family budgets will be hit twice and stretched to the limit because of associated increases in heating costs.

“And, to further compound the problem, double-digit rate increases for electricity service are right around the corner for millions of Pennsylvanians. The Energy Independence Strategy will equip consumers with the tools and information they need to make better informed decisions about their electricity consumption, so they can avoid the full brunt of these increases. Additionally, we need to ensure utilities are providing a diverse and reliable supply of power to their consumers at the lowest possible cost.

“Together, these measures can save our families and businesses $1 billion annually—savings that are desperately needed in the face of ever increasing energy costs.”

The Energy Independence Strategy would require utilities to provide customers with service at the lowest possible cost and invest in cost-effective conservation measures before building more expensive generation plants that pollute the environment or stringing high-voltage transmission lines through Pennsylvanians’ backyards. Utilities would be required to provide smart meters that tell consumers exactly how much electricity is being consumed at any given time and at what cost. Smart meters tell consumers how much energy is being used at any particular time, and how much that energy costs — enabling customers to use less electricity during peak times when it is most expensive, which can save up to 15 percent on annual electricity costs.

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