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Remarks by President Bush on Energy Initiatives

Contact: White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 202-456-2580


CLAYCOMO, Missouri, Mar. 20 /Standard Newswire/ -- The following text is of remarks by President Bush on energy initiatives:


Ford Motor Company, Kansas City Assembly Plant

Claycomo, Missouri

1:15 P.M. CDT


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all.  Please be seated.  (Applause.)  Alan, thank you.  It's good to be here in Kansas City.  Thank you for your warm hospitality.   I've had -- I guess you'd call it Car Day.  I started off at a GM plant across the way, and now I'm at the Ford plant.  My impressions are -- is that American automobile companies are essential to keeping us competitive, essential to providing good jobs, and these manufacturing facilities are full of some really -- finest citizens in our country. 


I thank you for your hospitality.  I enjoyed walking up and down the line, shaking people's hands.  I'm impressed by just how warm everybody was.  And I thank you, I really do.  It's been a joy to be here.  (Applause.)


The reason I've come is I want to highlight an important initiative for the country, and that is to promote technologies so we are less reliant upon foreign sources of oil.  And the best way to become less reliant on foreign sources of oil is to manufacture automobiles that will use either less gasoline, or different kinds of fuels.  And that's what we're here to talk about.


The Ford plant, the GM plant are producing automobiles that are the beginning, really, of helping this country develop a wise energy policy and a wise environmental policy.  And so I appreciate the fact that we've seen hybrid technologies and the world's first hybrid SUV, ethanol-driven cars.  Americans are just getting used to this kind of technological -- these technological breakthroughs -- something you're used to.  See, you make these cars all day long, but I don't think our citizens fully understand what is happening in America.  And that's why I've come to highlight the technological changes that we're seeing.


I've set out a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.  Some of our fellow citizens say, well, of course, that's just typical, they stand up there and put out a goal that's not achievable.  I think it's achievable.  And one way for me to make the case that it's achievable is to remind people about the new technologies that are being developed in a place like this Ford plant.


I believe that -- I call it 20/10; in other words, reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent over 10 years.  And I'm looking forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to get it done.  See, this is the kind of thing where we should be able to come together for the good of the country and promote technologies, and to encourage consumption of hybrid automobiles.


The American people expect us to work together.  See, that's what they want.  I'm confident that we can.  And Congress needs to pass good bipartisan energy legislation, and they need to do it by the start of the summer driving season.  That would be a good sign that we recognize that we've got a problem here in America, and we aim to solve it together.  (Applause.)


I appreciate Sam Graves -- he's the Congressman from this area -- traveling down with me.  Sam, thank you for being here.  (Applause.)  Sam's a farmer.  I'm about to talk about ethanol a little bit.  Let me put it to you this way:  I like the idea that farmers are growing energy that powers our cars.  I'd rather be paying American farmers than people overseas for the energy that fuels this economy.  (Applause.)  And so when you're making a vehicle that runs on ethanol, or a flex-fuel vehicle, you're really helping national security. 


And before I get to that, I want to thank Alan for his leadership of Ford.  I appreciate Ken Ward, the plant manager.  Thank you for giving me a tour.  How about your President of UAW 249.  He's not only the President, he happens to be the Mayor.  (Laughter.)  I told him -- (applause) -- I said, you've got to be a busy guy, filling the potholes, at the same time that he's worrying about the employees.  But, Mayor, thank you -- I call you, "Mayor."  I could call you, "President."  (Laughter.)  I appreciate the tour, and thanks for hanging out there with me.


I want to thank all the employees that are here.  I also came over with Paul Marr.  He's the plant manager of the General Motors Fairfax Assembly.  I know you'll greet him kindly.  But thank you for coming, Paul.  I appreciate you being here.  (Applause.)


I mentioned national security.  I bet you didn't think in terms -- or maybe you do think in terms of national security when you make these modern automobiles here.  See, I believe that when you're dependent on oil from parts of the world where people may not necessarily like us, that creates a national security problem.  I know that when you're dependent on oil, and the objective of some of the terrorists is to destroy oil networks, it creates a national security problem for us.  In other words, the more we're dependent on oil from somewhere else, the more we're vulnerable to national security issues. 


I deal with it every day in the Oval Office.  And so when I tell people that a goal of reducing the amount of gasoline, which means we'll use less crude oil, is in the national security interest of the country, I think -- I hope you're beginning to get the drift of what I mean.  It's like when I say to a worker, when you make one of these cars, you're helping the national security of the country.


I like the idea of being independent.  I understand that when the demand for crude oil goes up in another part of the world, and the supply of crude oil doesn't match it, the price of gasoline goes up in America.  That's another issue we have to deal with when we're dependent on crude oil.  About 60 percent-plus of our crude oil comes from overseas.


And so what do we do about it?  What should the country do to lessen our dependence on energy from somewhere else?  Well, one thing we need to do is to promote the idea of technologies changing the way we live.  And that's what you're doing at the plant.


And so I appreciate very much the idea of hybrid vehicles.  If Americans don't know what I'm talking about, these are vehicles that you run on gasoline or electricity.  You take it for granted, you live with them every day.  Some people don't know what we're talking about.  It's -- this is a new market opportunity for Ford.  More and more people are going to be saying, how can I help us be less dependant on foreign sources of energy?  Well, one way is to buy a hybrid. 


It makes sense for the government to encourage people to buy hybrid vehicles.  And so we've got a tax credit for somebody who purchased such a vehicle, up to $3,500 a person.  I think it makes sense to encourage consumer behavior, to buy a car that you manufacture here, or at the GM plant -- not to be favoring one plant over the other.  There have been -- about 700,000 hybrids have been sold in America.  That's the beginning of something different, isn't it?  It's the beginning of a new market. 


The next wave of technologies, I'm told, is for there to be plug-in hybrids.  In other words, battery technologies -- I'm hoping at some point in time relatively quickly, you all will be installing new battery technologies in these automobiles that will enable people to drive on electricity more than on gasoline.


So part of the strategy has got to be for the federal government to promote research and development on technologies that will enable us to become the leader in battery technologies -- lithium ionic batteries.  I mean, it's very conceivable one day that somebody living in a big city will be able to drive the first 40 miles on electricity.  Now, imagine if all the big-city drivers were able to drive on electricity, not on gasoline, how much more -- how much less dependant on foreign sources of oil we'd be.  Remember, oil is the feedstock for gasoline.


And it's coming.  And I predict relatively quickly that you'll be making automobiles that will have this battery technology in.  And I think it makes sense to use some of your money to encourage new technologies, and to encourage research and development.  And that's what we're doing.  So part of the strategy is to -- is to really develop new battery technologies.


And by the way, what you're proving here is a car that -- or a truck -- doesn't have to look like a golf cart, if you're running on electricity.  It can be a normal size vehicle that people like to drive.  Texans like to use pickup trucks, as you well know.  And it makes sense to have these technologies fit in the kind of trucks that people like to drive, or the kind of cars that people demand.  And that's what's happening.


I appreciate the idea of flex-fuel vehicles for the American citizen.  That means that you can either use ethanol, or you can use gasoline, and you can choose.  I like the idea of the consumer having more options.  You're producing flex-fuel vehicles here, where somebody can decide to fill up with ethanol, or they can decide to fill up with gasoline, their choice.  In turns out that Henry Ford -- Model T was one of the first flex-fuel vehicles.  I didn't realize that until I came here -- but that he had the vision of having the Model T run either on gasoline or ethanol.  Isn't that interesting?


And finally -- (applause) -- and finally, it's now becoming in the marketplace.  Why?  Because it's going to be necessary for this country for national security and economic security reasons to start using different kinds of fuels. 


And here in the Midwest you have seen a boom in ethanol production and ethanol usage.  And the reason why is, is that corn-based ethanol is leading an amazing change in the country.  We consume about 5 billion gallons of ethanol right now in America.  That's up nearly fivefold in a relatively quick period of time.  The problem we face is that right now the most efficient way to make ethanol is through the use of corn -- and that's fine if you're a corn grower, but it's not fine if you're a hog raiser, because that price of corn is beginning to affect the people who are raising hogs.  And I understand that.  That's why we're spending a fair amount of money on developing new types of technology that will enable us to use something besides corn to make ethanol -- whether it be switchgrasses, or agricultural refuse, or wood chips.


And that technology is coming.  It may sound far-fetched to some that one of these days we'll be making a product that can go into a Ford pickup truck out of wood chips, and you'll be able to drive just like it was full of gasoline, but those days are around the corner.  And it makes sense for us to promote that kind of technologies. 


Right now the ethanol industry is sectionally based because this is where the corn is grown.  The idea is to develop new ways to be able to process different materials so that ethanol can be more widespread around the country.  If you're a Ford guy working here on the line, it's in your interests that we promote new ways to make ethanol.  After all, the flex-fuel vehicle would then become more in demand. 


All this is aimed, by the way, at doing what I told you, and that is to make us less dependent on crude oil.  It's really interesting, isn't it, for the President to be talking about one of these days people driving pickup trucks driven by ethanol -- fueled by ethanol from wood chips?  Is it real?  I think it is.  Otherwise I wouldn't be standing here talking to you about it.  Is it necessary?  I know it's necessary, for the sake of the future of this country. 


Ultimately, there's going to be hydrogen driving these vehicles.  Some of us aren't probably going to be able to drive by the time those show up, and so the meantime -- (laughter.)  Of course, I'm not driving much anyway these days.  (Laughter.)


I do believe we ought to reform the CAFE standards in a way that's based upon size -- not fleet-wise, but on different sizes, in order to be able to encourage better mileage.  But the big gains in this 20/10 program are going to come through by alternative fuels.  And that's what I want to share with you, that this is a national objective.


We spent about $12 billion over the last six years to promote different kinds of researches, different kinds of ideas, trying to make sure America stays on the leading edge of technological change.  I strongly believe it's in our interest to be the leader of technologies.  Technology changes the way we have lived our lives; technology is going to change the way we drive our cars. 


`    And so part of the strategy to be better stewards of the environment and, at the same time, be less dependent on foreign sources of energy is to change the automobile.  I've come to this plant because that's what you're doing.  You're making a new kind of automobile that is literally a part of changing America for the better. 


An energy strategy has got to be more than just an automobile strategy.  I mean, we can reduce dependency on oil -- and we will; we're still going to need oil.  And therefore, I think it makes a lot of sense for us to continue to explore for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways here in America.  If you're worried about a terrorist attack, like I am -- terrorist attack on our infrastructure somewhere else that will affect the price of oil, I do believe it makes sense to double the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to have oil in place in the ground that we could then use in order to protect the American consumer against sudden disruptions of supply. 


We got a lot of coal in America.  We've got about 250 years worth of coal.  If you want to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy, it seems to make sense to develop the energy reserves you have at home.  And -- but coal burns -- doesn't burn cleanly.  And so, therefore, we're spending a sizeable amount of money on clean coal technologies.  I believe that within a relatively quick period of time, we will have the ability to use coal to fire our electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or pollutants, zero-emission coal-fired plants.  We've still got work to do.  But there's a lot of research going on, and it makes sense to spend that kind of money on developing ways that we can be good stewards of the environment and use a plentiful supply of coal.


I strongly believe in nuclear power.  If you're somebody who is concerned about greenhouse gases, it seems like to me that it's logical then that you support the use of nuclear power.  A nuclear power plant is the ultimate source of renewable fuels, and it has zero emissions.  It makes a lot of sense to me to promote a nuclear power the engineering technologies have developed to the point where they're safe. 


It's an interesting part of the debate.  I know there's a lot of folks who worry about nuclear power.  I would just hope people would keep an open mind about it.  If you really do want to become less dependant on foreign sources of energy and want to worry about the environment, there's no better way to protect the environment than the renewable source of energy called nuclear power.


I do believe wind power makes sense.  All we've got to do is put a couple of turbines in Washington, D.C. and we'll be energy free.  There's a lot of -- (laughter) -- a lot of hot air there, you know.  (Laughter.) 


What I'm telling you is, is that we've got a comprehensive plan, comprehensive ideas on how to meet the challenges, really, of the 21st century.  I'm a believer in technologies, and I'm a believer in the ingenuity of the American people.  And for the skeptics, all you got to do is come into a place like this and see what they're building. 


And I believe it's just the beginning.  I really do.  That's what I've come to share with you, my sense of optimism about the country.  As a matter of fact, I don't think there's anything we can't achieve when we put our mind to it.  This country has overcome challenges in the past, and we'll darn sure overcome them in the future. 


One of the challenges we have is to protect the country from a group of terrorists who'd like to do us harm.  And here in this Ford plant, I want to declare to you:  No matter how tough it gets, this country is going to stay steadfast and do the job that you expect us to do, which is to protect you from harm.


And another challenge facing us is this challenge of energy independence.  We're making great strides -- continue to make great strides.  And they'll look back and say of this generation that I'm a part of -- I hope they'll look back and say they did their job.  Job well done.


Thanks for letting me come by, and God bless.  (Applause.)


END  1:33 P.M. CDT