Friday, June 15, 2007

Cantwell, Kerry Introduce Plan to Help Fuel-Dependent Small Businesses With Rising Energy Costs

Yesterday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell [D-Wash., pictured] and John Kerry [D-Mass.] introduced legislation to create a fuel emergency program to help small firms struggling with rising gas costs. Kerry and Cantwell will also offer their proposal as an amendment to the energy bill currently under consideration in the Senate.

“Small businesses all across our country are hurting from record fuel costs that eat up their profit margins,” said Cantwell. “More than 25 percent of small businesses have had to increase their prices as a direct result of rising fuel costs. It’s time we helped fuel-dependent small businesses stay competitive, so they can continue providing good, high-quality jobs.”

Kerry and Cantwell’s bill, the Small Business Emergency Fuel Assistance Act of 2007, will be offered as an amendment to H.R. 6, the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. Their proposal would create a grant program within the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration that authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to issue grants to states to provide assistance for fuel-dependent small businesses in the wake of a presidential fuel emergency declaration. Small firms and farms demonstrating need and a plan toward becoming more energy efficient would be eligible for these grants.

Sens. Kerry and Cantwell, both members of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, also held a hearing yesterday to examine the effect of high fuel costs on America’s small businesses. The hearing featured testimony by Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO of Federal Express, which got its start as a small business. Smith advocated for strong, bipartisan energy security legislation that would improve Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] standards.

Testimony also came from Janet Myhre, of Tacoma, Wash.-based small business Chuckals Inc., an independent office supply dealer. The delivery segment of their business is hurting under today’s fuel costs, and many of their products are increasing in cost as a result of fuel price hikes. For example, a cost of a carton of paper has increased 15 percent over the last two years.

Ms. Myhre testified, “As we’ve discussed with Sen. Cantwell and her staff, while there are new options for the consumer both in alternative fuel and vehicles, there currently are very few options for the small-business owner who has commercial fleets, which run on gasoline.”

Additionally, the Energy Information Administration testified that high gas prices are here to stay. Guy Caruso, head of the independent agency, reported that average gas prices are expected to remain at $3.05 for the summer – 21 cents higher than last summer, with another forecasted peak in August.

Click here to read Kerry's formal statement on the Small Business Emergency Fuel Assistance Act of 2007.

Sources: Library of Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

The American Express SimplyCash(SM) Business Card. Earn 5% cash back on gas, wireless and office supplies -- plus 1% cash back on virtually everything else! Apply now!

No comments: