Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images
President Bush said that America must end its dependence on imported oil. Bush said his goal is to cut the amount of oil flowing to the U.S. from refineries like this one in Kuwait.
President Bush said that America must end its dependence on imported oil. Bush said his goal is to cut the amount of oil flowing to the U.S. from refineries like this one in Kuwait. Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images
In promising to help wean America from its addiction to imported oil, President Bush is in good company. Every American president since Richard Nixon has called for energy independence. And after more than three decades of promises, the United States imports more of its oil than ever.
President Bush called for breakthroughs in "two vital areas": how the United States powers its homes and offices, and how the country powers its cars. The first of these has little to do with oil. Only about 3 percent of electricity in the U. S. is generated with oil.
Coal is by far the largest source of power for homes and offices, followed by nuclear power and natural gas. Because existing coal-fired power plants contribute to air pollution and greenhouse gases, President Bush wants to invest more in cleaner coal technology.
He also called for increased investment in solar and wind-power research, although the dollar amounts in his 2007 budget — less than $200 million together — are fairly small. (ExxonMobil sells five times that much every day.)
Any discussion of reducing America's oil addiction must include cars and trucks, which burn about half the oil we use. President Bush proposed additional spending on high-tech batteries for hybrid vehicles and research into ways to make more ethanol from agricultural waste.
The largest single element in the president's "Advanced Energy Initiative" calls for spending $289 million on development of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars. President Bush has been a champion of fuel-cell vehicles since his 2003 State of the Union address. Critics say his emphasis on futuristic solutions, while perhaps valuable in the long run, shortchange existing technologies that could provide meaningful fuel savings today.