- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry yesterday suggested that America’s dependence on foreign oil is the major reason the United States went to war with Iraq.

“A strong America begins at home — with energy independence from the Middle East. Let’s ensure that no young American soldier has to fight and die because of our dependence on foreign oil,” the Massachusetts senator said.

Mr. Kerry will give a speech in Oregon today highlighting his energy plan. Mr. Kerry is expected to continue his energy themes from last week.

Mr. Kerry and other Democrats spent much of last week blaming President Bush for soaring gasoline prices, saying the president has dealt too softly with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which voted in April to limit oil production.

His speech today will add detail to his proposed alternative-energy package.

“He will visit a bus depot to highlight the effect the current gas prices are having on local communities like school systems paying higher-than-expected rates to transport children on already-tight budgets,” said a Kerry campaign spokesman.

On Saturday, Mr. Kerry used the nation’s record-high gasoline prices to criticize Mr. Bush in the Democrats’ response to the president’s weekly radio address.

Mr. Kerry said his energy plan will create tax incentives for new technologies, such as the hydrogen-fuel-cell car and other electric-gas hybrids and for greater uses of renewable fuels, such as solar and wind energy farms and ethanol-based petroleum.

“Our dependence on foreign oil is a problem we must solve together the only way we can: by inventing our way out of it,” he said.

Mr. Kerry added that soaring energy prices are putting the U.S. economy at risk and that dependence on foreign oil puts U.S. national security at risk.

The Kerry plan, as outlined so far, does not appear to differ greatly from Mr. Bush’s energy bill, which is stalled in the Senate. The energy bill includes mandates for increased uses of renewable fuels, a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska to Chicago and a return to nuclear energy among other initiatives.

Senate Democrats objected to language in the bill giving civil-liability protection to producers of methyl-tertiary-butyl ether, a fuel additive in gasoline that environmental groups say leaks out of storage basins and pollutes groundwater. That language was removed from the Senate version of the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, has said repeatedly that he has the Democratic votes needed to pass the bill.

But Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said there remains stiff Democratic opposition to the bill.

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