MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
On a day when the price of oil hit a new high, President Bush went to New Mexico to sign a new energy bill. He touted it as a comprehensive way to conserve energy and fund research into new, cleaner sources. Not too far away in Albuquerque, critics of the legislation held a protest rally, saying the bill would not lower prices but only increase energy industry profits. NPR's David Greene is traveling with the president.
DAVID GREENE reporting:
President Bush is spending this month at his ranch in a heat furnace known as central Texas. But his advisers say he'll also spend much of the month on the road, telling Americans about Republican achievements back in Washington. Today he headed to the Sandia National Laboratory outside Albuquerque to sign a new energy bill. He began with a tour of a solar thermal test facility--it was essentially a dusty field--where Mr. Bush looked at enormous solar-collecting mirrors moving around him.
Later, inside an auditorium at the Sandia Lab, the president talked about how long it took to get an energy bill through Congress. He first proposed one in his first year in office. At a time when many Americans are concerned about how much it costs to fill up their cars, though, the president made clear that the $14.5 billion bill is no quick fix.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: This bill's not going to solve our energy challenges overnight. Most of the serious problems, such as high gasoline costs or rising dependence on foreign oil, have developed over decades. It's going to take years of focused effort to alleviate those problems. But in about two minutes we're going to have a strategy that'll help us do that.
(Soundbite of applause)
GREENE: Mr. Bush portrayed the bill as a comprehensive document that funds research into new, cleaner forms of energy, supports new investments in nuclear power and gives tax breaks to people who buy hybrid fuel cars. But he also responded to critics who complained that the legislation is one big gift to energy companies that will lead to a dirtier environment.
Some of Mr. Bush's critics spent their day holding a rally on the campus of the University of New Mexico. One of the organizers, Gregory Green, is New Mexico's state director for the National Environmental Trust. He said to reach a bipartisan compromise on the energy legislation, lawmakers gutted provisions that would have protected the environment, such as a requirement that 10 percent of energy production in the country come from renewable sources.
Mr. GREGORY GREEN (National Environmental Trust): We're waiting to make sure that folks know what this bill does and does not do. And what it does do is it gives away, you know, quite a bit of their tax dollars to the wealthiest companies in the world. And what it doesn't do--it didn't take care of them at the pump. It didn't take care of global warming.
GREENE: Today was to be an opportunity for the president to focus some attention away from areas where his administration is having problems. A new Associated Press poll indicated only 38 percent of Americans now approve of his handling of the war in Iraq.
Mr. Bush is scheduled to talk about foreign policy at his ranch on Thursday, but before that he'll keep the focus on the home front. He'll speak about the economy tomorrow back in Texas, and he'll stop in Chicago on Wednesday to celebrate passage of a new transportation bill. David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the president at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.
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