- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

President Bush yesterday urged Congress to pass his $1.2 billion plan to spur development of hydrogen-fueled cars, saying the United States must break its dependence on oil from "countries that don't particularly like us."
"We import over half of our crude oil stocks from abroad. And sometimes we import that oil from countries that don't particularly like us," the president said in a speech at the National Building Museum.
"It jeopardizes our national security to be dependent on sources of energy from countries that don't care for America, what we stand for, what we love."
With the United States on the brink of war with Iraq which could hamper U.S. relations with some major oil-producing nations in the Middle East Mr. Bush said his proposal would reduce demand for oil by more than 11 million barrels per day by 2040 from the 20 million barrels Americans now use.
The United States imports 55 percent of the oil it consumes, a figure that is expected to grow to 68 percent by 2025. Using fuel-cell cars would eliminate reliance on foreign providers and bring self-sufficiency, which Mr. Bush said is a "matter of economic security."
At the museum, the president spent about 20 minutes watching demonstrations of cars, a scooter and portable electronics such as cell phones and laptops, all powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
One vehicle was the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX, which uses hydrogen supplied to a fuel-cell "stack" to generate electricity that powers its electric motor. With an output of up to 80 horsepower and 201 foot-pounds of torque, its acceleration is similar to that of a Honda Civic, company officials say.
Water vapor is the only exhaust.
Mr. Bush first announced the proposal in his State of the Union address last month, promising a "new national commitment" to take fuel-cell-powered cars "from laboratory to showrooms" within the next 20 years.
While critics complain that a generation is too long to wait before hydrogen-powered cars are widely available and affordable, Mr. Bush said continuing to talk about the issue is pointless; action is needed.
Some Democrats said Mr. Bush is trying to fool Americans into thinking he is an environmentalist, a charge that rankled the White House.
"What's so unfortunate about comments like that is the partisan nature of these types of attacks is exactly why it's been so hard for Democrats and Republicans to work together to protect the environment," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
"Instead of saying thank you and welcoming a major environmental initiative, opposition parties and groups that represent more of the [Democratic National Committee] than the environmental cause launch attacks."
Mr. Bush wants to spend an additional $720 million over 10 years beyond what is already planned for fuel-cell research. In all, Mr. Bush wants to spend $1.7 billion on two projects over the next five years.
Some, however, said the president's plan did not go far enough.
"While the country awaits the hydrogen-powered cars of 20 or more years from now, the president should be increasing fuel-economy standards for cars, SUVs, and pickups and urging Americans to purchase and drive hybrid gas-electric vehicles that are in auto showrooms right now," said David M. Nemtzow, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.

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