Washington, DC – Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said that spikes in gas prices are “squeezing farmers and middle class families” and could be putting as many as 600,000 jobs at risk. The remarks came at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing examining how new CFTC rules and biofuels can help address high gas prices.
“Certainly in Michigan and across the country, high prices are squeezing farmers and middle class families, who live on tight budgets,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “When they pay more for gas at the pump, it means they have less cash in their pockets and when businesses pay more for fuel, they are unable to hire and retain employees – a dangerous place to be in this fragile economic recovery.”
Chairwoman Stabenow reiterated the need to implement “tough new rules to stop abuses and manipulation” and to make certain that the “CFTC has the tools and resources it needs to protect American consumers from oil prices when they are out of line with market fundamentals.”
Witnesses at the hearing included Dr. Bruce Dale, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI; Mr. Jeff Broin, CEO and President, POET, Sioux Falls, SD; Mr. Dan Berkovitz, General Counsel, CFTC, Washington, DC; Dr. Richard Newell, Administrator, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC; Mr. Stanley R. Townsend, on behalf of the Kansas Farm Bureau, Townsend Farms, Weskan, KS.
Chairwoman Stabenow’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, is below.
Opening Statement As Prepared for Delivery
Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow
March 30, 2011
Good morning. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will now come to order.
We are here today to discuss an issue affecting all Americans, especially farmers and middle-class families across America – the high, volatile price of gasoline and diesel fuel and the role that new rules and American farmers are playing to address this problem.
We’ve seen reports that as many as 600,000 jobs could be at risk because of these recent spikes in gas prices. Certainly in Michigan and across the country, high prices are squeezing farmers and middle class families, who live on tight budgets. When they pay more for gas at the pump, it means they have less cash in their pockets and when businesses pay more for fuel they are unable to hire and retain employees – a dangerous place to be in this fragile economic recovery.
A number of questions remain about what’s causing these spikes. Certainly, supply and demand play a significant role, but we also know it’s not quite as straightforward as that, which is why I asked the Energy Information Administration to appear before us today.
We also know that what goes on in the markets plays a role, which is why we put in place tough new rules to stop abuses and manipulation– and I want to make sure that the CFTC has the tools and resources it needs to protect American consumers from oil prices that are out of line with market fundamentals.
But despite all the questions and the complexity surrounding the price of oil, the one certainty has been that oil prices are volatile – which poses a real danger to our economy.
That’s why we’ll also hear about how America’s farmers can help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and what more they may be able to do in the future. Biofuels are the pioneers as we work toward a future where we have real alternatives to foreign oil, but there is much work ahead of us and a strong need for more innovation to diversify biofuel supply.
Our country cannot afford to lose another 600,000 jobs because of spiking fuel prices. This Committee stands ready to continue to help in these efforts and will continue to work toward real solutions to bring relief to farmers and families.
I will now yield to Senator Roberts for his opening remarks.