March 24th, 2022

Contact: Erik Mebust, erik@climatepower.us 

WASHINGTON, DC — In yesterday’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, witnesses and Democrats alike declared investments in clean energy are the essential step for protecting Americans from volatile fossil fuel prices and undermining the power of petro-dictators. Several Senators also called out the oil and gas industry for profiteering off the invasion of Ukraine and made an impassioned call to return the industry’s windfall profits to the American people through Sen. Whitehouse’s recent tax and rebate bill. 

Sen. Carper, who chairs the Committee, said “instead of doubling down on an antiquated energy playbook that doesn’t work anymore, we need policies that help our economy smoothly transition towards cleaner, American-made energy.” Sen. Markey, echoed that when he said “I just keep hearing ‘drill baby drill,’ but the reality is, if we want to get real and move to our country’s greatest strengths, it’s gotta be ‘plug in, baby, plug in.’ […] that’s why the tax credits for electric vehicles are so important: we can tell Russia we don’t need their oil any more than we need their caviar.”

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabusemphasized the danger of U.S. dependence on fossil fuels: “America will not become truly energy independent until we end our dependence on fossil fuels. By continuing to use so much oil we leave our economy and the pocketbooks of American families subject to the whims of these dictators. Only by pushing our economy to renewable sources like wind, solar. […] which are controlled locally and essentially bullet proof from foreign manipulation can we regain our economic sovereignty. […] As the invasion of Ukraine has shown, we are still far too vulnerable to dramatic swings in the prices of fossil fuels.

Several Senators also criticized the fossil fuel industry’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. Citing a small mountain of evidence, Sen. Whitehouse accused Big Oil of using the high prices resulting from Putin’s invasion to pay out their shareholders and CEOs at the expense of the American consumer. He said “the industry PR machine is out full blast trying to blame this on people who don’t have the power to set price—and it’s a little hard to accept that.” 

On Tuesday, President Biden warned a group of prominent CEOs not to take advantage of the situation in Ukraine: “We can’t afford to prioritize shareholders at the expense of your stakeholders: the environment, your workers, your customers, the communities where they live and work.” Last week, polling by Hart Research found that 60% of voters blame price gouging by oil companies for the high price of gas. Sen. Whitehouse introduced legislation taxing any windfall profits oil and gas companies make while the Ukraine crisis is destabilizing international energy markets, and Hart found 80% approval for that proposal.