Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday heard testimony on improving the nation’s energy security by reducing the amount of oil used by the transportation sector, the role the government can play, and the effect reduced oil consumption would have on prices and pollution. The chief witness was Founder and CEO of BP Capital Management T. Boone Pickens.

“We are in desperate need of boldness in Congress when it comes to enhancing the nation’s energy security,” Lieberman said. “We have taken incremental steps, and I have supported them. But I am appalled, frankly, by how severe we have allowed our debilitating oil addiction to become over the past three decades while we have been talking about curing it. The time for incremental steps is over, and I for one am spoiling for bold action.”

“Our nation is facing an energy crisis,” said Collins. “The sharp spikes in the price of oil are causing great harm to our economy, from the major industries that drive our nation forward to the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities. As I travel throughout Maine, I hear time and again of the hardship the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and home heating oil is causing families.”

Pickens testified on his recently released plan to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil by an estimated 38 percent. Mr. Pickens’ plan involves producing energy from wind in the Midwest and increasing the use of natural gas for transportation, allowing time for more alternative energy sources to be developed. The “Pickens Plan” is estimated to cost an amount equivalent to what the U.S. spends on foreign oil in one year.

“The high price of gasoline today is literally wounding American families, businesses, and farmers and it is causing the American economy to stagger,” Lieberman said. “It threatens to impose terrible hardship this winter on families in places, like New England, that rely heavily on home heating oil. No matter how much oil America produces, the global oil market will always be controlled by mammoth foreign producers in countries, some of which are at best volatile and at worst hostile to the United States and its democratic allies.”

“Solving the energy crisis requires the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector, and understanding of the specific economic and environmental issues at stake, and a commitment to the research and development of new technologies. Some of the best ideas about what we need to do now and over the next five years are coming from people right here in Maine, such as Dr. Dagher,” said Sen. Collins. “It also requires action by government. From establishing a timeline for energy security to undertaking critical investments to stimulate research in alternatives to expanding production and conservation tax credits, government has a critical role to play. Above all, we must follow through.”

As part of their effort to decrease the cost of energy prices, Lieberman and Collins earlier this month introduced the bipartisan Commodity Speculation Reform Act, S. 3248, to curb excessive speculation on the food and energy commodity markets. Their efforts are now the basis for legislation being debated on the Senate floor.

In addition to Pickens, Tuesday’s witnesses included: Maine Professor Dr. Habib Dagher, an expert on off-shore wind and geothermal energy; Dr. Gal Luft, Executive Director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security; and Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America.