Energy Independence

America is currently facing a significant choice when it comes to the future of our economy and national security.

It’s a choice between spending a billion dollars a day on red, white, and blue American clean energy jobs or spending a billion dollars a day buying oil from countries who all too often don’t share our interests.

It’s a choice between a strong, secure, energy-independent America and a weaker, oil-addicted America.

It’s a choice between American technological leadership, selling American technologies and services overseas, or losing the clean energy race and buying technology from other countries.

The success of America’s economic future rests on our ability to transform our energy strategies and create jobs in the next great growth industry: the clean energy economy. 

Senator Merkley supports the passage of clean energy legislation to begin the work of replacing the millions of jobs lost in manufacturing and other sectors in recent years, to end our dependence on foreign oil, and to curb the pollution that threatens our children and our environment. 

Oil Independence by 2030

America’s dependence on overseas oil costs our nation a billion dollars per day that could be used here at home.  In 2010, Senator Merkley introduced the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act, a comprehensive plan to reduce oil consumption in the U.S. by over 8 million barrels per day by 2030, enough to end the need for oil imports from beyond North America.

 The bill includes steps to:

  • Ramp up production and use of electric vehicles.
  • Increase gas mileage requirement for automakers, including setting the first mileage standards for medium and heavy duty trucks, saving thousands of dollars for businesses.
  • Increase travel options and improve infrastructure so that more families have access to better public transit or choices like safe biking and walking, and businesses have better access to freight rail to ship goods.
  • Develop alternative transportation fuels, such as biofuels from Oregon’s forestry and agriculture lands.
  • Reduce the use of oil to heat buildings, by renovating buildings so that waste less energy, and by helping communities invest in biomass heat.

The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act would also create a National Council on Energy Security to make sure that reducing the use of oil remains a top priority for the President and Congress.  The Council, housed in the White House, would be charged with making recommendations to the President and Congress to ensure that the array of federal agencies who have relevant responsibilities are coordinated and focused implementing a strategic plan to meet the bill’s goal of ending dependence on overseas oil.

Electric Vehicles

To boost the production and use of electric vehicles, Senator Merkley sponsored the bipartisan Electric Vehicle and Deployment Act of 2010 with Senators Dorgan (D-ND) and Alexander (R-TN).  The legislation would increase incentives for electric vehicle purchases, promote the deployment of charging infrastructure and launch a “deployment communities” program where selected communities across the country would get assistance in encouraging broad adoption of electric vehicles in the marketplace.

Creating Jobs and Saving Money for Families and Businesses

Renovating buildings to reduce the energy they waste, by taking steps like improving insulation and lighting, represents an opportunity to put thousands of people to work in construction jobs and reduce energy costs for the families and businesses who pay the bill to heat and light homes and commercial buildings.  In 2009, Senator Merkley introduced the Clean Energy for Homes and Buildings Act to help families and business owners receive low-interest loans for energy-efficient renovations that they can pay back out of the savings they get on their energy bill.

Senator Merkley has also proposed the “Home Star” and “Building Star” programs to provide homeowners and business owners with rebates and financing options for energy-efficient renovations.

In 2010, Senator Merkley introduced the Rural Energy Savings Program Act to help lower energy bills for Oregon families by giving them the opportunity to invest in energy efficient home renovations.  The Rural Energy Savings Program would assist rural electric co-ops in offering “on-bill” financing to their customers, allowing families and businesses to repay the loan through savings on their monthly energy bill.  This program will create jobs and save families and businesses money on their monthly energy bills.

Investing in an Efficient Future

Senator Merkley fought for increased federal investment in energy efficiency programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided $40 billion to help put people to work making our homes, schools and businesses energy efficient.

Senator Merkley also supports establishing a long-term commitment to energy-saving measures, such as an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, that will require utilities to invest in energy efficiency to reduce electricity demand.

Renewable Energy: Home-Grown Energy, Home-Grown Jobs

Senator Merkley supports a national Renewable Electricity Standard, similar to Oregon’s standard, which would require utilities to generate 25 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2025. Merkley also supports financial incentives to help families and businesses choose to use renewable energy.  Senator Merkley also supports expanding transmission capacity for renewable electricity sources like wind, solar, and biomass. 

Generating Power from Oregon’s Forests

Senator Merkley believes the sustainable biomass from our forests and agriculture waste can and should be a new source of renewable energy to replace foreign oil, as well as an economic engine to create jobs in rural Oregon. Rural communities, in particular, can save money by using local forest waste to heat institutions such as schools and hospitals rather than paying to ship in fossil fuels. Senator Merkley worked to include funding for renewable heating energy and biomass heating projects in the 2009 clean energy jobs legislation.

Senator Merkley has also proposed legislation to allow biomass from public lands to qualify for the current Renewable Fuels program and make sure that biomass is eligible for renewable electricity and climate change programs. 

A 21st Century Transportation System: Better Options, Less Pollution

Senator Merkley is proud of Oregon’s role as a leader in public transportation and believes all Americans should have better access to transit options including buses, streetcars, and light rail. As a member of the two Senate committees tasked with overhauling our nation’s transportation legislation, Senator Merkley is working to ensure that there is adequate federal funding available for public transit and highway projects.

In 2009, Senator Merkley joined Congressman Blumenauer and Senator Wyden to push the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to reverse Bush Administration policies that blocked funding for the expansion of the Portland streetcar.  As a result, DOT contributed $75 million toward the project.

In 2009, Senator Merkley co-sponsored the Livable Communities Act to encourage sustainable development at the local, state, and federal level, by helping communities cut traffic congestion, improve transportation options, protect green spaces, locate affordable housing where residents have less need to drive long distances, and revitalize existing Main Streets and urban centers.

A Mandatory Cap on Global Warming Pollution

One of Senator Merkley’s top priorities as a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is to pass legislation that will reduce global warming pollution. Merkley is working with his colleagues on legislation that places a cap on global warming pollution and develops a cost effective program to help industry and consumers meet that cap.