At the time of this writing, average gasoline prices in central Illinois have topped $2 per gallon. It's amazing to think that gasoline prices are at this record high and our country doesn't have an energy policy enacted.
The leadership on Capitol Hill has been working to formulate a national energy policy since Bill Clinton was in the White House, but during that entire time, Democrats in the U.S. Senate have continued to block the Energy Bill. While citizens suffer through high gas prices, a bill sits in the U.S. Senate that would help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I believe that's irresponsible. Not only do these high gas prices put a big crimp on the wallets of all Americans, but high gas prices cut into job creation and are an overall drag on the economy.
It has been over a decade since we formulated a national energy policy; it never happened under President Clinton, and due to the Senate filibuster, it has yet to happen under President Bush, and the citizens of the U.S. are paying for it through higher prices at the pump.
The energy legislation is a bill that would address one of the most pressing issues before us today. The only alternative those holding up the Energy Bill have offered is to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is a short-sighted answer to the problem we face. If we were to release oil from the Reserve, and terrorists were then to strike at our refineries, the outcome could be catastrophic, and our emergency reserve would be depleted. The Reserve is just that, a reserve for use during times of a severe disruption in our oil system in the U.S. when we would be in dire need of petroleum. In fall 2000, President Clinton released more than 31 million gallons of the Reserve. While crude oil prices did drop, this release endangered our ability to respond to an emergency, and, eventually, oil prices rose to the point we're at today. What we need is a long-term plan, not a short-term Band-Aid.
This Energy Bill is good for our area because of the emphasis on renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. The bill calls for an additional 5 billion gallons of ethanol to be produced every year. This will be a boon for Illinois farmers, while also contributing to a cleaner environment. The real key to cutting gas prices in this bill is the plan to increase oil production and capacity in this country. While refiners operate at a record production rate, the infrastructure to refine, store, and transport oil and gasoline is in need of serious expansion and upgrade. Currently, we import almost two-thirds of the crude oil used in this country. We can no longer rely on the whims of OPEC in determining our gas prices, and this bill helps us expand our production in this country.
This bill not only would help the gasoline situation, it'll help modernize our electric grid, it will give added resources to clean coal technology, it emphasizes hydrogen and wind energy, and it allows for increasing our production of nuclear energy. It's been a generation since a new nuclear facility was built in this nation. Technology has advanced incredibly, and we should provide the incentives to build new, safe facilities. We must increase alternatives, research, and production in this country, and this bill does all of those things.
The Energy Bill, H.R. 6, passed the House November 18, 2003. Three days later, a majority of the Senate (57-40) voted to close debate on the Energy Bill and move to a vote, but the required 60 votes weren't reached to close debate. With Republicans holding 51 seats on the Senate, Democrat votes are required to invoke cloture, and to date, not enough Democrats have agreed to stop the filibuster on the Energy Bill.
To help alleviate these high gas prices, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to update our power grid, and to provide incentives for a cleaner energy source, it's imperative that the Democrats in the Senate drop their filibuster and help us create a new energy policy for our nation. IBI