By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
April 15, 2005
Addressing members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors gathered in Washington for their annual meeting, Bush said the issue has been "brewing for quite a while because the country has yet to implement a strategy that will make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy."
He added: "What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent. It's really important. It's an important part of our economic security and it's an important part of our national security."
The comments came on the same day that the price of light, sweet crude for May delivery rose 23 cents a barrel, to $50.45, on the New York Mercantile Exchange, about 35 percent higher than it was this time a year ago. Gasoline prices in most parts of the country are well over $2 a gallon.
Bush told editors that demand is simply outstripping supply - China's booming economy is requiring an increasing amount of oil - and that the United States needs to start thinking long-term.
"We need to be better when it comes to conservation," he said. "We need to continue spending money on research and development to find ways to make corn economic _ ethanol and bio-diesel. We got to continue exploring ways to make sure we can burn coal in environmentally friendly ways. I know we need to continue to explore for natural gas in our own hemisphere in environmentally friendly ways. But Congress needs to get off the dime."
Left unmentioned was the president's call to permit drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a proposal that has drawn stiff objections from environmentalists. Still, the Senate has slipped a provision to permit drilling in its budget bill and three House committees on Thursday together unveiled an energy package - containing a provision in support of ANWR drilling - that could receive a vote by the full House next week.
Despite Bush's support for refuge drilling, critics such as Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, say it will do little - if anything - to address the immediate problem.
"The problem is that the Republican energy bill will do nothing to cut gas prices or curb our consumption of oil from Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern suppliers," Markey said.
The president, Markey said, needs to consider additional provisions to improve motor vehicle fuel efficiency to make a dent.
"Unfortunately, the Republican energy bill he wants Congress to pass is larded up with generous tax breaks, royalty relief, government-funded subsidies and exemptions from environmental laws aimed at further incentivizing wealthy oil and gas companies to do things that current high prices and their own profit-making interests should make them do already," he said.