Bush Relies on New Technology to Solve Energy Problems

COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 10, 2005 (ENS) - President George W. Bush asked Congress Wednesday to get busy and pass legislation embodying his vision of a comprehensive national energy policy. During a visit to Columbus, the President took a tour of the technology company Battelle, and he told a crowd at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial that innovative technology is the answer to America's energy needs.

"The first objective of a sound energy bill is to encourage the use of technology to improve energy conservation," Bush said. "We're constantly searching for smarter ways to meet our energy needs. We're constantly looking for new technologies to help Americans conserve."

The President said he went to Battelle in Columbus, one of the largest energy research and development organizations in the world, to see what innovative ideas about energy conservation "some of the true brains of America" had to offer.

Battelle manages or co-manages five Department of Energy national laboratories. Bush's energy policy is founded on coal, oil, nuclear and hydrogen power, and Battelle officials responded by showing the President developments in pipeline safety and security, next-generation nuclear power, energy efficient appliances, grid reliability, clean coal and a hydrogen fuel cell.

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President Georege W. Bush (left) and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman (2nd left) listen as Battelle officials demonstrate a fuel cell for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (Photo by Krisanne Johnson courtesy The White House)
The tour included a close look at a fuel cell developed at Battelle Columbus and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that is being engineered to provide auxiliary power for the U.S. Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The fuel cell gives the Bradley extended silent watch capability and increased fuel efficiency. Other combat vehicles will also benefit from this technology.

The nuclear energy presentation included a schematic of the next-generation nuclear power plant and its capabilities for emissions-free hydrogen production. Battelle leads the team that recently won the management contract for the Idaho National Laboratory, and a key component for that contract is the development of this next-generation nuclear power plant.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working toward a zero-energy house that will produce as much energy as it uses. The President saw a demonstration of how researchers developed the low-cost house with technologies ranging from high-efficiency appliances to solar panels that uses just $.60 per day in energy. On sunny days, the house generates more electricity than it uses.

"I saw an efficient, affordable water heater than extracts heat from the air and converts it into energy that can warm your water in the shower," Bush told the crowd after his Battelle tour.

"Today, you can store your food in super efficient refrigerators that use less energy than a 75-watt light bulb," said Bush. "We're making progress about using technologies that will enable us to conserve."

Battelle's presentation on grid reliability focused on high-temperature superconductivity and how these types of cables will be able to handle a much larger electrical load than existing power lines.

Also highlighted were monitoring and control technologies that will enable grid operators to detect problems on the grid and reduce loads in a way that does not impact the end customer. These technologies have the potential to relieve the strain on a maxed-out grid system like the ones that failed during the New York City blackout of 2003.

Bush liked the devices he called smart meters. They show how much energy you're using and then calculate exactly what that energy is going to cost you. Seems like a practical idea, doesn't it?, the President said. "Here's what you're using, if you use it at this hour, this is what it costs. It'll help you plan. It'll help you better conserve. It'll give you incentives to turn off the lights the next time you leave the room."

Bush again returned to a theme of his administration, reducing America's dependence on foreign energy and increasing domestic production. He told the crowd that begins with "a firm commitment" to America's most abundant energy source - coal. The country has enough coal to last another 250 years, Bush said.

In Ohio, he said, "when you plug in a television, or charge a cell phone, or use electricity there's a 90 percent chance that that electricity is coming from coal. Coal is at the heart of Ohio's energy strategy, and it should be at the heart of America's energy strategy."

At Battelle, the discussion on clean coal included a technique under development called carbon sequestration. This technology, a key component of the President's FutureGen initiative, involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions and permanently trapping them thousands of feet beneath the Earth's surface. Researchers at Battelle Columbus are leading the effort.

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President Bush delivers an energy policy speech in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo courtesy The White House)
"Coal presents an environmental challenge. And I know that," the President said. "Most of Ohio's coal is high in sulfur. And that makes it harder for your good state to meet strict air quality standards. That's why clean coal technology is critical to the future of this country. It's critical to the future of the state. It's critical for the job creators of your state. It's critical for the working people of your state. It's critical for this country."

Bush again promoted his FutureGen Project, the world's first coal-fueled zero emission power plant. "I believe it's possible," Bush said. "I believed it was possible before I went to Battelle, then I talked to the people who know what they're talking about, people on the front edge of research and development, and now I really believe it's possible."

The President again promoted drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He was accompanied by the new Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman who has just returned from a fact finding trip to ANWR.

"We can now reach all of ANWR's oil by drilling on just 2,000 acres," Bush said. "Two thousand acres is the size of the Columbus airport. By applying the most innovative environmental practices, we can carry out the project with almost no impact on land or local wildlife. And that's important for you all to know."

The Department of Interior estimates that we could recover more than 10 billion barrels of oil from a small corner of ANWR that was reserved specifically for energy development, Bush said. "That's the same amount of new oil we could get from 41 states combined."

Although virtually all conservation groups, many scientists and many of the indigenous people of the Far North oppose drilling in the refuge, there is no doubt in the President's mind that it is the right thing to do.

"You see, developing a small section of ANWR would not only create thousands of new jobs, but it would eventually reduce our dependence on foreign oil by up to a million barrels of oil a day. And that's important," Bush said to applause. "Congress needs to look at the science and look at the facts and send me a bill that includes exploration in ANWR for the sake of our country."

To ensure a diverse energy supply, we need to promote safe, clean nuclear power. Nuclear power can generate huge amounts of electricity without ever emitting air pollution or greenhouse gases.

Bush characterized nuclear power as "safe" and "clean" although the country still has no permanent geologic repository for the disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste.

"America hasn't ordered a nuclear power plant since the 1970s, and it's time to start building again," Bush said to applause.

"Many people have concerns about the safety of nuclear power. I know that, and so do you," he said. "Yet, decades of experience and advances in technology have proven that nuclear power is reliable and secure. We're taking early steps toward licensing the construction of nuclear power plants, because a secure energy future must include nuclear power."

Bush concluded by restating his faith in American ingenuity. "There's no doubt in my mind," he said, "we can lead better lives through the use of new innovative technology."

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the Democratic challenger for the presidency in the 2004 election, called Bush's speech a "say one thing, do another" effort.

"The president talks about clean coal technology," said Kerry, "but shortchanges it in his budget. They say we need a bipartisan energy policy, but today their special interest giveaway Clear Skies proposal was rejected by a Republican committee in the Senate."

"The Bush-Cheney energy plan is not the solution to rising energy costs or the answer to our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. Instead, their energy policy is the place where cozy business connections, secret trade deals and industry campaign contributions come together to keep us dependent on foreign oil and keep consumers paying through the nose at the pump," Kerry said.

Kerry said that during the Bush administration, America has become more, not less, dependent on foreign oil. Citing figures from the Department of Energy's statistical branch, Kerry said that in 2000, 58.2 percent of the oil consumed in the United States was imported. That has increased to 61.7 percent today.

"Americans deserve better," said Kerry. "We need a real plan that will free us from our dependence on Mideast oil by investing in renewable sources, providing incentives for conservation and diversifying our energy supplies."