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Bush Wants to Cut US Petroleum Demand


U.S. President George Bush wants Americans to cut their use of gasoline by 20 percent over the next 10 years. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, it is the cornerstone of a new energy policy launched in Tuesday's State of the Union address.

President Bush says America's dependence on foreign oil is an economic and national security risk that the country had better start dealing with seriously now.

"The more dependent we are on oil from overseas, the more likely it is somebody else's demand is going to affect what you pay at the pump for gasoline," he said. "Secondly, if you are dependent on oil overseas and a hostile regime, a regime hostile to the United States, produces that oil, you become vulnerable to the activity of a hostile regime."

The president wants to reduce that vulnerability by cutting U.S. petroleum use 20 percent in the decade. Boosting alternative fuel supplies by 35 billion gallons would replace 15 percent of the current projected annual gasoline use.

The remaining five percent would come from saving more than eight billion gallons through tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.

The United States currently imports about 60 percent of its oil. The president wants to step up domestic production in what he calls environmentally sensitive ways including drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska.

Mr. Bush also wants to double the current capacity of the strategic petroleum reserve, which is meant to cushion the impact of natural disaster or a terrorist attack on the energy supply chain. Boosting that reserve to 1.5 billion barrels by 2027 would give America 97 days of net oil import protection.

"If we are saying dependence on oil creates a terrorist threat, let's do something about it now," he added. "Let's say that if the threat does come there is enough crude oil in storage to be able to deal with the short-term economic consequences of an attack."

The president spoke to energy scientists in the eastern state of Delaware, following up on his launch of the energy plan in Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Mr. Bush is focusing on domestic issues that he feels have the best chance of passing in a legislature controlled by political opponents.

Most of the energy plan does appear to have bipartisan support. Democratic Senator Ken Salazar says he is delighted the president has given Congress the challenge to pursue greater energy independence.

"We have an opportunity here to work together as a Senate, as a United States Congress, by bringing Republicans and Democrats together to achieve true energy independence, to surpass even the president's vision of what it is that we can do," he said.

The president says his 2008 budget will request nearly $3 billion for research into alternative energy supplies including biofuels.