By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
May 16, 2005
Bush, who for months has been pressuring Congress to adopt an energy policy he proposed more than three years ago, visited a biodiesel refinery in West Point, Va., on Monday to draw attention to America's need to develop alternative sources and lessen dependence on foreign sources of oil.
But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the president isn't going far enough in support of alternative fuels.
"Consumers are facing record gas prices at the pump while oil companies are reporting record profits," Reid said. "Oil companies are not expanding their purchases of lower-priced biodiesel and ethanol and are continuing to purchase expensive crude oil and raise gasoline prices. The president should immediately call on oil companies and refiners to use more domestically produced biodiesel and ethanol."
Bush called biodiesel, which uses products like soybeans and recycled cooking grease to generate a clean-burning gasoline substitute, "one of our nation's most promising alternative fuel sources."
"What I think is interesting is they have combined farming and modern science, and by doing so, you're using one of the world's oldest industries to power some of the world's newest technologies," Bush told employees of the Virginia BioDiesel Refinery. "After all, they're taking soybeans and converting it to fuel and putting it into brand-new Caterpillar engines."
Pure biodiesel, according to the Department of Energy, reduces carbon-dioxide emissions by more than 75 percent over petroleum diesel. Using a 20 percent biodiesel blend reduces such emissions by 15 percent.
But some argue there is a trade-off. David Friedman, research director of the clean-vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that increased biodiesel use would reduce the amount of waste grease burned or tossed into landfills and address global warming. But it produces "significantly more smog-forming pollutants and carcinogenetic particulate matter than your typical gasoline vehicle," although additional research could address those problems.
While Bush lauded the continued development of alternative fuels, he continued his push to increase America's oil drilling and refining capacity, an initiative that has drawn sharp rebuke from environmentalists.
The United States produces only 35 percent of the crude oil it uses, creating a dependence on foreign sources.
Monday, the president again touted the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as the most promising energy source, despite protests from environmentalists that drilling would destroy a pristine wilderness while producing, by some estimates, only enough oil to satisfy U.S. demand for six months.
"Thanks to technology, we can reach that oil with almost no impact on land or wildlife," he said. "To make this country less dependent on foreign oil, Congress needs to authorize pro-growth, pro-job, pro-environmental exploration of ANWR."
Those claims led Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, to say that the president's "19th-century solutions won't do the trick."
"He again tried to conjure up the same old energy policy that fails to lower gas prices, fails to cut our dependence on oil and puts our public lands and communities at risk," Pope said. "America doesn't need a repackaged, polluting energy bill. It needs real energy solutions, and it needs them now."
Bush's speech came at a time when oil prices were moderating. Crude oil prices fell to a three-month low on Monday, hitting $47.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The average price per gallon of gasoline on Monday was $2.09.
Joan Lowy of Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this story.
Contact her at lowyj(at)shns.com.
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