President Bush Promotes Energy Technologies

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President Bush conducts a two-day promotional tour for his energy policies. Speaking at a battery plant in Milwaukee on Monday, he said the nation is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that would "startle" most Americans.


President Bush is following up on a proposal to reduce dependence on Middle East oil. He first made that proposal during a State of the Union Speech. And as he stopped in Milwaukee, he promoted one alternative fuel, as NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

In a midterm election year, it's never easy getting new initiatives through Congress. But when President Bush landed in downtown Milwaukee yesterday, he said he's working extra hours to push his second term agenda.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: And first, happy President's Day. It turns out most folks in Washington don't work on President's Day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

President BUSH: The only one working is the president.

GREENE: One of his goals, he said, is to cut the nations' consumption of Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent by the year 2025. He said it's not wise for Americans to rely on energy from unstable governments.

President BUSH: These countries know we need their oil, and that reduces influence. It creates a national security issue when we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us.

GREENE: His advisors have acknowledged that the 75 percent goal is a rough estimate, and that the government has really no way to control what countries are selling oil to American corporations. Still, the point, Mr. Bush said, is if researchers can develop enough alternative kinds of fuels, there will be less need to import oil.

He was visiting Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee company that's developing lithium ion batteries for hybrid cars. The batteries are currently used in laptops and cell phones, and would be far smaller and sleeker than the clunky batteries in hybrids today. The company says that under the best circumstances, they're still four years away from producing the first lithium ion battery for a vehicle. But Mr. Bush sounded optimistic.

President BUSH: I think about how your children or your grandchildren may be able to spend a President's Day in the future. If you're planning on visiting relatives, you can plug in your hybrid car the night before, and drive the first 40 miles on your lithium ion battery. If you've got more distance to go, you can fill up at your local ethanol station.

GREENE: Critics have questioned the president's commitment to renewable energy. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said in a statement yesterday that Mr. Bush has offered a budget with much different priorities than his speeches, putting off green technologies and energy reforms until 2030.

Today, Mr. Bush is visiting the National Renewable Energy Laboratory outside Denver. The facility is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, and because of a budget shortfall, had to fire 32 people earlier this month. But a day before the president's visit, the Bush administration announced it had found five million dollars for the lab, so it could restore all those jobs.

David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the president in Englewood, Colorado.

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