Bush: 'We're Too Dependent on Oil'
President Bush today said he worries that declining gasoline prices will make Americans less concerned about the nation's future energy needs.
"Energy is -- look, let me just put it bluntly: We're too dependent on oil," he said at the Renewable Fuels Conference in St. Louis, sponsored by the departments of energy and agriculture. "Now, see, low gasoline prices may mask that concern."
Bush said he frets that the "low price of gasoline will make . . . us complacent about our future when it comes to energy."
Gasoline prices have dropped sharply in recent weeks, in part because of a slowdown in U.S. demand and a buildup in crude oil and gasoline inventories.
Today, the average price in the United States for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.25, compared with $2.61 a month ago, according to the AAA motor club. In the Washington region, regular unleaded has dropped from $2.80 to $2.36 over the same period.
"I want to tell you that I welcome the low gasoline prices," Bush said. "However, it's not going to dim my enthusiasm for making sure we diversify away from oil. We need to diversify away from oil for economic reasons."
Bush offered his audience a dose of Energy 101, asserting early in his speech: "We live in a global world. When the demand for oil goes up in China or in India, it causes the price of crude oil to rise. And since we import about 60 percent of the crude oil we use, it causes our price to go up as well, which means the economy becomes less competitive."
"And then, of course, there's the national security concern for oil," Bush added. "Why? Well, we get oil from some countries that don't particularly care for us."
Bush's speech was interrupted by a protester who yelled, "No blood for oil! Out of Iraq now!" But the president pressed on, saying his administration has made hydrogen and fuel-cell technology a priority.
"And we will continue to research to make sure America's less dependent on foreign sources of oil," he said.
Bush trumpeted solutions to future U.S. energy needs that included "solar roofs that will enable the American family to be able to generate their own electricity" and hybrid cars that will run the first 40 miles on electricity and won't "look like a golf cart."
"I believe wind power has got the opportunity to help," Bush said. "All we need is to put a couple of windmills right there in Washington, D.C., and we'll be less dependent on foreign sources of energy," he said to laughter from the audience.
Bush promoted continued use of tax credits to encourage alternative energy sources, increased drilling for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico and expansion of nuclear power generation.
"Nuclear power is renewable, and there are no greenhouse gases associated with nuclear power," he said. "One of the problems we've had is that nobody wants to build any plants. They're afraid of the cost of regulation and the litigious nature that surrounds the construction of nuclear power plants."
At the end of the speech, Bush told his audience he had to leave to "get my limousine filled up by hydrogen."
He was on his way to Chicago to campaign for two Illinois Republicans -- businessman David McSweeney and state senator Peter Roskam -- who are running for House seats now held by Democrats.
The event at the Chicago Hilton will mark the first time Bush has appeared publicly with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) since former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned over disclosures that he sent sexually explicit messages to teenage male pages. Hastert has faced criticism over how he dealt with the Foley matter.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the House energy committee, said late this afternoon that Bush's speech addressed only part of the nation's dependence on imported oil.
"Unless we mandate stronger fuel economy standards, biofuels by themselves will not be effective in helping us curb America's dependence on imported oil from the Middle East," Markey said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the President again failed to announce any new initiatives to improve motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards today."
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