GOLDEN, Colo. – Calling America’s dependence on foreign oil “a national security problem,” President Bush hailed technology as the solution Monday and offered a laundry list of alternative energy sources.
Bush reiterated his determination to wean the country off oil as he kicked off a two-day tour to promote new energy sources. He called the high cost of oil “a hidden tax” that threatens economic security.
The former Texas oilman said he’s ready to try everything from wind power to nuclear energy to break what he calls the nation’s addiction to fossil fuels.
“We’ve got to do something about it now,” he told an audience in Milwaukee, the first stop on his three-state trip. “The dependence on oil is a national security problem and an economic security problem.”
White House advisers hope that the president’s focus on energy will reassure Americans that Bush shares their concerns over high gasoline prices and home heating bills. Critics dismissed the trip as a publicity stunt and questioned the president’s sincerity.
“It’s great that the president is talking about our addiction to oil, but his policies are feeding the habit,” said Jeremy Symons, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s global warming campaign and a former staffer on Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force.
“The budget that came out funds less than half of what the recent energy bill promised for renewable energy and energy efficiency – the two most readily available opportunities to break our addiction to oil,” Symons said in an interview.
Most benefits from the alternative energy sources that Bush favors are years away from practical use, and some of the technology is unproven or financially impractical now. White House officials acknowledge that the president doesn’t have a quick fix and that the nation will need foreign oil for years to come.
Even so, Bush offered an optimistic vision.
“Our nation is on the threshold of some new energy technology that I think will startle the American people,” he said.
•Lithium-ion batteries, now used in cell phones and laptops, could make electric cars far more efficient. The trick is to come up with a version that’s practical and affordable.
•Advances in production of ethanol, fuel derived from corn and other crops, could make it possible to provide a cheap replacement for gasoline.
But critics say Bush’s commitment to the research – $150 million next year – is minuscule compared to the need.
“It’s all talk. The president hasn’t changed his energy policies at all,” said Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust.