Bush Would Break U.S. Oil Addiction With Renewables, Nuclear, Coal

WASHINGTON, DC, February 1, 2006 (ENS) - "Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," said President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address, delivered last night before a Joint Session of Congress.

"The best way to break this addiction is through technology," the President said. To bolster technological solutions to the problem of oil addiction, Bush announced an advanced energy initiative to change two energy sectors - how buildings are powered and how automobiles are powered.

"Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources, and we are on the threshold of incredible advances," said the President, announcing a 22 percent increase in funding for clean energy research to be implemented by the Department of Energy.

"We will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy," Bush said.

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President George W. Bush delivers his State of the Union Address at the Capitol on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy The White House)
To change how automobiles are powered, Bush said, "We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen."

"We'll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years,"

"Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025, he told the legislators and government officials assembled in the House of Representatives chamber.

"By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past," said the President.

President Bush's emphasis on renewable energy was historic, said Rhone Resch, president of the national trade association the Solar Energy Industries Association.

"Tonight, the president told the world that solar power will be an important component of energy in the U.S. This is the first president in 25 years to urge solar power development in the State of the Union," said Resch.

The solar industry will partner with the Department of Energy on cutting-edge research that will accelerate solar's development as a mainstream energy resource, Resch said. "We will also partner with the administration to extend the tax credits through 2015 and ensure that the U.S. is the global leader in the next great high tech growth industry, solar energy."

But not all renewable energy proponents were that enthusiastic about the President's plans. A network of U.S. businesses and community organizations called the Sun Day Campaign said President Bush's State of the Union call for "expanded use of nuclear power and so-called 'clean coal' while simultaneously cutting funds for wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and energy efficiency programs is continuing the administration's blind-as-a-bat energy policies that offer no solutions to climate change, energy imports, or rising energy costs."

Nuclear power remains uneconomic and unsafe with no solution to the problem of radioactive waste disposal. It affords no answer to global warming, said Sun Day Campaign Executive Director Ken Bossong. The technologies being promoted by the administration will yield only advanced nuclear proliferation he said. "Most importantly, nuclear power is not needed. There are safer, cleaner, cheaper, and far more publicly acceptable alternatives available," he said.

President Bush is offering only implementation of the very inadequate energy efficiency provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and investments in longer-term alcohol fuels, photovoltaic, fuel cells, and hydrogen technologies, Bossong said, calling for "aggressive promotion" of energy-saving technologies as well as much greater use of renewable energy technologies that are now commercially available.

In fact, Bossong said, "the President is expected to offer a budget request next week for Fiscal Year 2007 that will slash, and possibly eliminate, funding for the U.S. Department of Energy's core wind, geothermal, hydropower, and concentrating solar accounts as well as make deep cuts in key DOE energy efficiency programs and the sustainable energy programs in other federal agencies."

President Bush was correct in acknowledging America's addiction to oil, Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) said in response to the 2006 State of the Union address.

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President George W. Bush is flanked by Vice President Dick Cheney (left) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert as he listens to applause of his State of the Union Address. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy The White House)
"While we are pleased and encouraged by the President's remarks, we call on him and Congress to follow up with action that will improve energy efficiency and develop the clean energy technologies that the President spoke about, said REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins.

The President needs to "push congressional leaders in a new energy direction, away from the addiction-feeding notion that this nation, with only two percent of the world's oil, can drill its way to energy independence," Jenkins said.

"Congress must pass a legislative package that includes stronger efficiency measures, as well as accelerated research and development of clean energy technologies," Jenkins said. "Our congressional leaders must stop clinging to the fantasy that oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas will strengthen our energy security,"

REP Policy Director Jim DiPeso said, "The hazards of our oil addiction are increasing every year. Oil consumption pollutes the air. It increases emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are worsening the risks of dangerous climate change. Our heavy oil appetite takes money out of our pockets and subsidizes dangerous regimes that can do us harm. Greater competition for oil is a seedbed of international conflict."

The Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Skip Bowman was pleased with the President's support of nuclear power. "President Bush's comments on nuclear energy are a positive sign that the United States should seek to expand our nation's reliance on this emission-free source of electricity," he said on behalf of the nuclear energy industry organization.

"Several utility companies already are identifying potential new plant sites and testing new federal licensing processes for advanced design nuclear power plants," Bowman said. "The industry anticipates building 12 to 15 new nuclear plants by 2015."

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Clean Vehicles Director Jason Mark said, "The President has admitted we're addicted to oil. There's no reason to drag that addiction out 20 years. We could save more than 75 percent of Middle East oil imports within 10 years by increasing the fuel economy of our cars and trucks to 40 miles per gallon."

Mark said the latest UCS analysis shows that the United States is "sending $500,000 overseas every minute to import oil."

"Solutions are available now to relieve Americans' pain at the pump," Mark said. "It's time to get serious about the dismal gas mileage of our vehicles today while we work on the renewable fuels of tomorrow."