Bush: America Must 'Get Off Oil'
WASHINGTON, DC, March 5, 2008 (ENS) - "This conference will seem unbelievably outdated within a decade," President George W. Bush today told participants at WIREC 2008, the third global ministerial-level conference on renewable energy, taking place at the Washington Convention Center. "People will marvel about how far technology has helped change our habits and change the world. And I hope you take great pride in being a part of this constructive change," he said.

"Let me start first by telling you that America has got to change its habits," said Bush. "We've got to get off oil. And the reason why is, first, oil is - dependency on oil presents a real challenge to our economy."

"The dependency upon oil also puts us at the mercy of terrorists. If there's tight supply and demand, all it requires is one terrorist disruption of oil and that price goes even higher," he said. "That dependency presents a challenge to our national security."

"And finally, our dependence on fossil fuels like oil presents a challenge to our environment. When we burn fossil fuels we release greenhouse gases. The concentration of greenhouse gases has increased substantially," said Bush. "We recognize all three of these challenges, and we're doing something about it."

President George W. Bush addresses WIREC 2008 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

The president explained the U.S. efforts on encourage development of biodiesel and ethanol, of solar and wind power, and of nuclear power. "We want our people to understand that this generation of nuclear power plants is safe. We want people to feel comfortable about the expansion of nuclear power," he said.

Bush described the federal risk insurance program and loan guarantees for nuclear power plant developers. "Since we've started these programs, we've received six applications to build and operate new nuclear power plants in the United States," he said. "The paradigm is beginning to shift. And we anticipate that another 13 applications will be submitted this year."

"We're also working with our friends overseas for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership," Bush said. "I believe developing nations ought to be encouraged to use nuclear power. I believe it's in our interests, I believe it will help take pressure off the price of oil, and I know it's going to help protect the environment."

"And so we're working with other nations, like Japan and France and Great Britain and Russia and China, to form this energy partnership, the purpose of which is to help developing nations secure cost-effective and proliferation-resistant nuclear power, and at the same time to conduct joint research on how to deal with the nuclear waste issue, through positive, productive reprocessing," he said.

"The United States is serious about confronting climate change, and the strategies I just laid out for you are an integral part of dealing with climate change," he said.

Bush told the conference audience that he supports an international agreement to limit the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming, but it "must include commitments, solid commitments, by every major economy, and no country should get a free ride."

At an official side event, delegates consider how to define sustainable hydropower. (Photo courtesy ENB)

The president announced no new initiatives today, but what was new in his speech was a strong verbal commitment to "deal with global climate change."

On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told WIREC participants that their two agencies will invest up to $18.4 million, over three years, for 21 biomass research and development and demonstration projects.

Other countries have made major renewable energy pledges at WIREC. At the end of Tuesday, over 60 pledges had been submitted for the Washington International Action Program, a compilation of pledges from WIREC participants announcing domestic and international plans to accelerate the global uptake of renewable energy.

Australia has pledged that renewables will account for 20 percent of the electricity supply in 2020. And Australia has also pledged to implement a national Renewable Energy Target that includes a legislated annual target of 45,000 gigawatt-hours in 2020.

Denmark has pledged to reduce the use of fossil fuels by a minimum of 15 percent by 2025 and increase the share of renewable energy to at least 30 percent of energy consumption by the same year.

Italy pledges to establish a market-based green certificate mechanism to promote renewable energies and offer a 55 percent percent tax deduction over three years for solar heating and a tax credit on heating from geothermal sources and biomass used for district heating.

Japan has pledged to set a renewable energy introduction target accounting for about three percent of the total primary energy supply by 2010.

Jordan has pledged to increase use of renewable energy sources to account for 10 percent of its energy needs by 2020.

WIREC 2008 participants in the plenary hall (Photo courtesy ENB)

New Zealand pledges that 90 percent of the country's electricity will come from renewables by 2025.

Norway has pledged to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

Spain pledges that at least 12 percent of energy consumed in Spain must come from renewable sources by 2010.

Tanzania and Kenya each have pledged to develop sustainable biofuels industries.

The Netherlands pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in 2020 and to increase share of renewable energy to 20 percent by that same year. And the Dutch government says it aims to buy 100 percent sustainable products in 2010.

The Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, WIREC 2008, opened on March 4 and will continue through March 6. Close to 3,000 participants are registered for the ministerial meeting and 4,000 other participants are in attendance.

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