John F. Kerry photo

Remarks in Santa Fe, New Mexico

October 11, 2004

Thank you, Governor Richardson for that great introduction. America may be in the grips of an energy crisis, but with Governor Richardson at the helm, there is no shortage of energy or enthusiasm here in New Mexico.

Before we begin, let me say a few words about the loss of a man who was truly America's hero – my friend, Christopher Reeve. Teresa and I were deeply saddened to learn of his death, and we send our prayers to his loving wife Dana, his children, and his entire family. Chris was an inspiration to all of us. Without leaving his wheelchair, he was able to make great strides toward a cure for conditions like his. His tireless efforts will always be remembered and honored – and in part because of his work, millions will one day walk again. As Chris once said, "So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." I know that one day we will realize Chris' inevitable dream.

For 60 years, New Mexico has been at the leading edge of change and innovation. In a very real sense, we won World War II right here in this state. In the summer of 1942, with the scars of Pearl Harbor still fresh, Americans were gearing up for battle. Yes, planes and tanks had to be built at a record pace, strategies conceived, battles planned, and young Americans dispatched to frontlines around the globe. But Franklin Roosevelt knew that we needed something more. He knew we had to marshal America's most brilliant minds and best technology. The initiative he created was called the Manhattan Project, and it was headquartered at Los Alamos.

Today, we have an equally important challenge: to make America energy independent in the 21st century. Only then can we grow our economy as we should, protect our environment as we must, and keep our country as safe as it can be.

To do this, we need a president who will lead us there. We need a president who believes in America's great potential – and who believes that the middle class is America's greatest strength. We need a president who can see the problems facing America, and who will make the right choices to solve them.

But in the past four years, in nearly every decision he's made, George W. Bush has chosen the powerful and well-connected over middle class Americans.

The only people George Bush's policies are working for are the people he's chosen to help. They're working for drug companies. They're working for HMOs. And they're certainly working for the big oil companies.

The results are clear: 1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost. The cost of health care is up 64 percent. College tuition is up more than 35 percent. And the typical family is making $1,500 less each year -- while the cost of nearly everything continues to rise.

Right now, oil prices are at an all-time high, with no end in sight. In most parts of the country, a gallon of gas costs nearly $2 – up 30 percent since George Bush took office. In the last four years, the cost of heating the average home with heating oil has gone up 91 percent. And high energy costs have pushed up prices across the board – from the food you put on your table to the clothes your children wear.

A thirty percent increase in gas prices means a lot more profit for this President's friends in the oil industry. But for most middle class Americans, the Bush gas tax is a tax increase they can't afford. The funny thing is, George Bush is trying to scare you into thinking that I'm going to raise your taxes. But to borrow a saying, when it comes to George Bush's record on gas prices, he can run but he can't hide. Facts are stubborn things, Mr. President.

Four years ago, when he was running for president, George Bush said, "What I think the president ought to do is ... get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, we expect you to open your spigots!" Today, four years later, with gas prices at record levels, we're still waiting for George Bush to make that phone call! The spigot is nearly shut – his energy policy has failed – and middle class families pay the price every time they fill up the gas tank.

Instead of standing up for you, George Bush has chosen secret meetings with the energy industry behind closed doors in the White House, where they can make their case, but there's no one there to make yours. And then the president when all the way to the Supreme Court to protect the identity of his secret energy advisors.

And after four years of empty rhetoric and inaction, the Republican-controlled Congress is ending another session without passing a good energy bill for America. At the end of the day, George Bush just couldn't get it done. Just like with jobs, health care, and education, the President has more excuses than results.

Year after year, President Bush has proposed budgets that shortchange investments in clean, renewable, domestic sources of energy -- like wind, solar, and biomass. He ignores energy conservation. When it comes to developing a real energy policy, George Bush has run out of gas.

Just like on every other issue, they'll tell you they have an energy plan. But as usual, it's a plan that warms the hearts of their powerful friends and leaves you out in the cold.

Their plan includes tax breaks totaling nearly $15 billion for George Bush's friends in the oil and gas industries. The president's plan, not surprisingly, provides sweetheart deals for Halliburton – including an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act so they can do more drilling. It's no wonder Senator John McCain has called the Bush bill the "No lobbyist left behind act."

What's worse, the Administration's own economists have found that their energy plan won't reduce gas prices or reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. In fact, the Bush energy policy hurts other businesses and slows economic growth. For example, the airline industry will spend an extra $11.4 billion on fuel this year. Truckers will spend an additional $15.6 billion. And farmers will spend an additional $2.8 billion. Even the Chairman of the President Council of Economic Advisors admitted recently, "High energy prices are now a drag on the economy."

Higher gas prices have cost the American consumer $34 billion since George Bush took office. But guess who's profiting from all this? That's right -- the people who wrote the energy plan in the first place – the big oil companies. The money you're paying at the pump is going directly from your wallets straight into the hands of oil companies and oil producers. Over the past three years, the big three oil companies have earned a record $38.6 billion in profits.

The Bush plan also threatens the environment by exempting all oil and gas drilling sites from parts of the Clean Water Act. It blocks efforts by 28 states to get oil companies to clean up polluted drinking water – and it saddles taxpayers with an $8 billion cleanup bill. And it opens sensitive wildlife habitats like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Otero Mesa here in your backyard to big oil and gas drillers.

Worst of all, George Bush's plan does nothing to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

Today, we are importing 2.5 million barrels of oil from the Middle East every single day. In the last four years, the amount of foreign oil we consume has risen to sixty-one percent. When they went to war, this Administration's energy experts projected that oil would be as low as $28 a barrel today. Last week, gas prices hit a record $53 a barrel – and one big reason is because of this president's gross mismanagement of the war in Iraq.

As president, I have a real energy plan to harness the full force of America's technology and make this nation independent of Middle East oil in ten years. My plan will increase fuel efficiency, lower energy prices, produce alternative and renewable sources of energy, and create new jobs here at home. I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi Royal family.

My five-point plan will make America safer, stronger and more secure.

First, as President, I will speed up investment in technologies that save energy and create alternative fuels. Through a new Energy Security and Conservation Trust Fund, Americans will have a guaranteed commitment to reducing our dependence on oil. We only have three percent of the world's oil reserves. There is no way for us to drill our way out of this crisis. We have to invent our way out of it. American creativity has to drive the process – and new American jobs, good jobs here at home, will be our reward.

Today, the funding for our energy security is sporadic, uncertain, and insufficient. We may not have the greatest oil reserves on Earth, but we do have great resources of intellect and invention to find new fuels and to conserve and optimize traditional ones. So the trust fund I propose will take existing royalties that corporations now pay for the right to drill on public lands and dedicate that money to Research and Development so that we can have cleaner and more abundant energy sources.

We know that the road to more energy independence depends on making our cars and trucks more energy efficient. One out of every seven barrels of oil in the world is consumed on America's highways. That's why my plan contains economic incentives to build the energy-efficient cars, trucks, SUVs, and buses of the future. And I am determined that by the year 2020, 20 percent of America's energy will come from domestically produced alternative fuels like ethanol.

Second, my plan reduces energy bills for American consumers. Under the Bush Administration, many Americans will be spending $500 more this winter to heat their homes. My plan will rein in out-of-control gas prices for families, farmers and businesses by restoring American leadership abroad, simplifying gasoline rules, deploying our Strategic Petroleum Reserve when appropriate, ensuring fair competition in the energy marketplace and helping industry, schools and homes increase energy efficiency and cut their energy bills. To begin with, my administration will enact efficiency standards to cut the federal energy bill by 20% -- saving $2 billion a year. We will help states, municipalities, businesses, and consumers do the same.

Third, we will diversify sources of energy. For four years, this administration has sat by while our dependence on foreign oil has increased. My plan will focus on finding new sources of energy. We will make clean coal a real part of our energy future. We will ensure that by the year 2020, twenty percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources like wind and solar. We will seek new sources of oil in non-OPEC countries. We will increase the supply of natural gas by developing domestic natural gas sources that are already open for leasing and drilling. And we will enhance our ability to move natural gas from Alaska and Canada.

Fourth, our energy grid is vulnerable; it can and must be strengthened. The August 14, 2003 blackout resulted in the loss of electricity for more than 50 million people and cost our economy $6 billion. The footprint of the blackout on both sides of the US-Canadian border included great urban areas that are heavily industrialized and important financial centers. More than a year after the August 14th blackout, George Bush hasn't taken any action to ensure that the lights don't go out again. We will.

Fifth, we will create 500,000 new clean energy jobs in America by providing incentives to invest in clean energy technologies and encourage job creation. Here in New Mexico, in places like the new wind farm in Quay County, you've seen how investments in renewable energy protect the environment while they also produce new jobs.

America once led the world in the production of clean energy products and the payrolls that go with them. We have to do it again – whether it's in wind or biomass, solar or clean coal.

My friends, sixty years after the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, Sandia and all our national laboratories continue to push the boundaries of knowledge. You can continue to strengthen our national security if we invest in your capacity to safeguard our environment and make America independent of Mideast oil. You understand that what's good for the earth is good for the people, good for our economy and good for a safer and stronger America. And you are leading with a uniquely American question: What if?

So much promise stretches before us. America needs to climb the next mountain, look to the next horizon, and ask: What if?

For the sake of our children...for the sake of our security ... for the sake of our economy ... for the sake of our environment ... we must meet that challenge and make America energy independent of Mideast oil.

What if we do that? I know we can. We just have to believe in ourselves. Let's start making it happen twenty-two days from now!

Thank you and God bless America.

John F. Kerry, Remarks in Santa Fe, New Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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