Bush emphasizes production in national energy blueprint
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) -- President Bush outlined an energy plan Thursday that made a strong push for increasing energy production, using a speech here to call for more domestic oil drilling and the construction of new coal-fired and nuclear power plans.
"If we fail to act, this country could face a darker future," Bush said in the address, one of two appearances he will make Thursday to discuss the plan.
The measure, which is likely to face a pitched battle in Congress, calls on federal agencies to take dramatic steps to reduce regulations on the energy industry to encourage more output from coal-fired plants, recommends the construction of more than 1,300 new power plants and calls for new oil and gas exploration -- including some on federal lands that environmentalists and many in Congress believe should be off-limits.
"My administration has developed a sane national plan to meet our energy needs this year and every year," the president said in what the White House billed as a major address on energy policy. He promised a plan "that faces up to our energy challenges and meets them."
The president said the plan consisted of more than 100 recommendations "that light the way to a brighter future" by addressing both demand and supply.
"I'm deeply concerned about the impact of rolling blackouts in California," Bush said. The future of the United States, he said, will be threatened if nothing is done to seek solutions to the nation's energy crunch.
Bush called for more domestic oil production, warning that "over-dependence on any one source of energy, especially a foreign source, leaves us open to price shocks ... and blackmail."
The president said oil underneath the U.S. national wildlife refuge in northern Alaska known as ANWAR, should be tapped to offset petroleum imports.
"ANWAR can produce 600,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 40 years," Bush said. "That happens to be the exact amount of oil we import from Iraq."
Bush also made a strong plea for the construction of new nuclear power plants, saying that France depends on nuclear power for 80 percent of its total electricity needs.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said he hoped to have energy legislation up for a Senate vote this summer, but also told the Associated Press that some of it "will be hotly debated."
Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe called the Bush plan a product of an administration "filled top to bottom with people from the oil industry," according to the Associated Press.
The plan has outraged environmental groups, which say they were excluded from talks in its development phase, but Bush said environmental considerations were part of the plan.
The 163-page administration energy report suggests the country faces the worst energy crisis since the 1970s, and in addition to an array of incentives for the industry, also includes a package of tax and other stimuli designed to promote conservation, energy efficiency, and wider development and use of alternative and renewable fuels.
There are 105 recommendations in all, many of which are certain to be controversial, including a review of whether the United States should drop its ban on nuclear plants powered by reprocessed fuel. France and Japan are among the nations that currently use this technology.
Some of the contents might surprise administration critics. One part offers language that appears to favor ordering the auto industry to raise fuel efficiency standards. The report says the Department of Transportation should make that determination after receiving a report from the National Academy of Sciences in July.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who held office during the late 1970s, offered an opposing view to the Bush administration's depiction of the nation's energy supply in Thursday's Washington Post.
"No energy crisis exists now that equates in any way with those we faced in 1973 and 1979," Carter wrote. "World supplies are adequate and reasonably stable, price fluctuations are cyclical, reserves are plentiful, and automobiles aren't waiting in line at service stations. Exaggerated claims seem designed to promote some long-frustrated ambitions of the oil industry at the expense of environmental quality."
Making the case for a new long-term energy strategy -- and for a dramatic emphasis on supply, the report says that over the next 20 years:
U.S. oil consumption will increase by 33 percent.
Natural gas consumption will increase by more than 50 percent.
Demand for electricity will increase by 45 percent.
Vice President Dick Cheney was on Capitol Hill Wednesday and gave House Republicans a peek at the proposal. House leaders said they would work to turn it into legislative language and move it as quickly as possible through the chamber. (More details on Bush's plan)
"We need to look at this in a comprehensive way," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert. "There is no magic wand to wave over this."
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said he hoped an energy bill would be ready for Bush's signature by July 4. The congressional minority, however, is not on board with the Bush plan.
House Democrats announced a plan of their own on Tuesday that calls for increasing oil production in areas that have already been roped off by the federal government for exploration and drilling -- lands that already account for some 89 percent of the nation's untapped reserves.
They also propose more pipelines to move natural gas into the lower 48 from Alaska's North Slope, and would move to hold down price increases that may be put in place by Western electricity providers.
In addition, the Democrats propose a series of tax incentives for construction of energy efficient homes and the purchase of "hybrid" gas and electric automobiles. Those incentives could net individuals as much as $4,000 in annual tax savings. Small businesses would also stand to benefit.
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