- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

WEST POINT, Va. (AP) — With gasoline prices soaring, President Bush urged Congress yesterday to encourage the development of alternate fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol in order to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil.

“Our dependence on foreign oil is like a foreign tax on the American dream, and that tax is growing every year,” Mr. Bush said at the Virginia BioDiesel Refinery.

Mr. Bush flew to West Point to visit a production plant for biodiesel, an alternative fuel made from soybeans that burns cleaner and is American-made but carries a higher price tag than regular diesel fuel. It is often blended with conventional transportation fuels as an extender.

Before his speech, the president watched a demonstration of how biodiesel is made — and how cleanly it burns in an engine. Mr. Bush was given a white handkerchief that had been held to an exhaust pipe of a revved-up 18-wheeler and deemed it clean enough to hold up to his nose.

“Biodiesel is one of our nation’s most promising alternative fuel sources and, by developing biodiesel, you’re making this country less dependent on foreign sources of oil,” he said.

“Americans are concerned about high prices at the pump and they’re really concerned as they start making their travel plans, and I understand that,” the president said. “I wish I could just wave a magic wand and lower the price at the pump. I’d do that. But that’s not how it works.”

He said the high prices confronting consumers have been decades in the making.

Mr. Bush urged Congress to enact energy legislation that he says addresses both supply and conservation issues in a bid to make the United States less dependent on foreign nations — particularly those in the volatile Middle East — for its energy needs.

Mr. Bush has attempted to set an August deadline for Congress to send him a bill. The House has approved a plan with many elements that Mr. Bush wants, although he opposes the billions in tax breaks and subsidies to energy companies that it contains. The Senate has yet to act on alternative legislation.

Mr. Bush’s plan would open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling as part of its attempt to address supply problems.

His focus yesterday, though, was on the part of the plan that boosts support for conservation and fossil fuel alternatives — such as hydrogen, biodiesel and clean coal technology. Separately, Mr. Bush has offered proposals to speed the construction of nuclear power plants and oil refineries.

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