Sandia LabNews

President Bush visits Sandia, signs sweeping energy bill

President Bush visits Sandia, signs sweeping energy bill

Seated before a huge sky-blue-cloud-and-silver photograph of a Sandia solar collector array, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law last week at Sandia’s Steve Schiff Auditorium. He said the bill’s provisions will make America less reliant on foreign energy sources, encourage more environmentally friendly energy usage, promote nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy sources, boost the nation’s recovering economy, and keep the American homeland safer and more secure.

“The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is going to help every American who drives to work, every family that pays a power bill, and every small business owner hoping to expand,” the President said.

The energy bill is a massive and sweeping document; in its 1,724 pages it addresses the huge, interrelated web of issues that constitute “energy” in a 21st-century economy.

“After years of division and debate, Congress has passed a good bill. It’s my honor to come to the great state of New Mexico to sign it,” Bush told an audience of VIPs, White House guests, national and local media, and some 100 or so Sandians, many selected by lottery, to attend the historic signing. Bush previously had promised Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., that if the senator could shepherd an energy bill through Congress, Bush would sign the bill at Sandia in Domenici’s hometown of Albuquerque.

“Thanks very much for the warm welcome. I appreciate you treatin’ a neighbor from Texas so kindly,” said President Bush to the standing room only crowd as he entered the auditorium. “I’m really proud to be here with the men and women of the Sandia National Laboratory.”

President Bush’s visit was the first to Sandia by a sitting president since his father, George H.W. Bush, came to the Labs during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Bipartisanship at its best

In 18 minutes of prepared remarks before the signing, Bush praised the bipartisan nature of the effort, singling out Domenici, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, for special thanks. Domenici is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Bingaman is the ranking minority member. Barton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired the House-Senate conference committee on the energy bill.

“The bill is the result of years of effort,” Bush said. “It is the result of good folks coming together, people who have made a commitment to deliver results for the American people. This bill launches an energy strategy for the 21st century, and I’ve really been looking forward to signing it.”

‘Once Pete makes up his mind’

“I appreciate Pete Domenici’s leadership on this bill. You know, he’s the kind of fellow, when he makes up his mind to do something it’s hard to stop him. And as Pete said, he’s worked on a lot of energy bills in the past; some of them were signed by presidents and some of them never made it to the desk. But he’s been dogged in his determination to get a bill done, and he found a really fine partner in Joe Barton.”

Domenici, who has been working toward this culminating moment for years, came out onto the stage with President Bush and introduced the president as being the indispensable factor in the successful passage of the bill.

“It’s been a long time coming, but today we finally have a national energy policy,” Domenici said. Domenici also noted the bipartisan nature of the bill. Addressing Sen. Bingaman, who was seated on the stage with other dignitaries (including Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman), Domenici said, “You and I, Jeff, were able to resist intense partisan pressure in the Senate. We pledged to work together, and we kept that pledge.”

President Bush also noted Bingaman’s vital role: “Jeff Bingaman gets a lot of credit, as well. He knows the subject matter in the bill, and he’s a proven leader on issues such as conservation and efficiency and renewable fuels and research and development. And, Jeff, I, like Pete, want to congratulate you for a job well done, and thank you for being here.”

In a news release issued concurrently with the bill signing, Bingaman said, “I am glad to see this legislation signed into law. It represents significant progress and it gives me hope that in the months and years ahead that we can make even greater progress . . . towards national energy security.”

A balanced bill

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, whom President Bush praised as the right person at the helm to advance the provisions of the bill, said at the time of the bill’s passage, “By encouraging greater efficiency, increased energy production in an environmentally responsible way, and encouraging investment in our nation’s outdated energy infrastructure, this bill takes a balanced approach and embodies the right priorities for the American people.”

President Bush in his remarks echoed the theme of balance. Addressing the nation’s multifaceted energy-related issues, he said, “required a balanced approach. And that’s the spirit that Pete and Jeff and Joe took to the floors of their respective bodies. They recognized that we need a comprehensive approach to deal with the situation we’re in. In other words, we need to conserve more energy; we need to produce more energy. We need to diversify our energy supply, and we need to modernize our energy delivery. And so they worked hard and listened to a lot of good ideas, and they’ve taken really important steps [with this bill]. . . .

“The bill I sign today is a critical first step. It’s a first step toward a more affordable and reliable energy future for the American citizens. This bill is not going to solve our energy challenges overnight. Most of the serious problems, such as high gasoline costs, or the rising dependence on foreign oil, have developed over decades. It’s going to take years of focused effort to alleviate those problems. But in about two minutes, we’re going to have a strategy that will help us do that.”

Touring solar facilities

Before signing the energy bill, the president received a tour of Sandia’s solar tower facility and a briefing from Labs Director Tom Hunter about Sandia’s energy-related work.

“We just had a fascinating tour of the [solar] facility,” President Bush said. “It was a little quick, but I learned a lot, and I want to thank Tom Hunter for his hospitality and his enthusiasm for the projects that go on here, and his praise for the people who work here. . . . I know full well that the work you do here keeps our military strong, it keeps our nation competitive, and our country is really grateful for your dedication and for the fact that you lend your expertise into helping Americans.”

Under the overall leadership of Les Shephard, VP for Energy, Security, and Defense Technologies, dozens of Sandians from departments across the laboratories worked long hours during the previous week preparing for the president’s visit

.“There just couldn’t be a prouder time for Sandia,” Tom Hunter told the Lab News after the signing ceremony. “The president got a glimpse of Sandia, the people, the work, and the commitment we bring to what we do. He’s a president who truly understands the importance of energy and the role it plays in our nation’s security and well-being and its role in the world.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the people who worked so hard to make this day possible. Senators Domenici and Bingaman, of course, have worked toward this for years, and our team of folks led by Les Shephard has helped make this the most terrific day in our history.”