- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

President Bush yesterday called on the Senate to pass his energy bill, which includes drilling in Alaska, to ease America's dependence on foreign oil "from countries that don't particularly like us."
"I urge the United States Senate to pass a comprehensive energy plan quickly," Mr. Bush said at the White House after inspecting "hybrid" cars that run on a mixture of gas and electricity.
"The House has acted, and now the Senate must act," he added. "And the Congress needs to get a bill to my desk."
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, ridiculed the president's energy plan because it entails oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
"The president continues to cling to the stale, hazardous notion that we can drill our way out of our energy problems," Mr. Gephardt said. "It is a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.
"In fact, if we drilled in every wildlife refuge and off of every coastline in America, we would still have to import over 50 percent of our oil, just as we are doing today," he added.
But Mr. Bush warned that America's dependence on foreign oil, already at more than 10 million barrels a day, is still on the rise. He tied this dependence to the war on terrorism.
"This dependence is a challenge to our economic security, because dependence can lead to price shocks and fuel shortages," the president said. "And this dependence on foreign oil is a matter of national security.
"To put it bluntly, sometimes we rely upon energy sources from countries that don't particularly like us," he added.
The Senate is expected to take up the energy debate this week, although Democrats have drafted an alternative plan that does not include drilling in ANWR. The House passed the president's energy plan last year.
While the president is pushing for more oil production, he also favors conservation, as evidenced by the hybrid cars parked in the driveway yesterday.
"They are several times more fuel-efficient than most cars on the road today," Mr. Bush said. "And then the fuel cells are being developed. Fuel cells will power cars with little or no waste at all.
"We happen to believe that fuel cells are the wave of the future," he added. "Now, there's a lot of obstacles that must be overcome."
Chief among these is making the cells economically viable, which requires more research and development. Last month, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced a $150 million plan to develop a "freedom car," fueled by hydrogen, which emits only water vapor.
"While President Bush applauded hybrid cars and cars powered by fuel cells in today's speech, his energy proposal does not back up this rhetoric with deeds," Mr. Gephardt said.
"The White House bill passed by House Republicans gives over $40 billion in tax breaks for energy 80 percent of which goes to big traditional energy companies like Exxon and Enron," he added. "Less than 10 percent of their tax incentives would actually promote the type of technology and cars President Bush talked about today."
Also yesterday, during a speech to officials of the Voice of America radio network, Mr. Bush continued to speak out against North Korea, one of the "axis of evil" nations he listed in last month's State of the Union address.
"Under some regimes, like that in North Korea, simply listening to the Voice of America is treated as a crime," the president said. "And the fears of these regimes are well-founded, because tyranny cannot survive forever in an atmosphere of truth."


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