In a speech to the Renewable Energy Conference co-sponsored by the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, President Bush said that Americans have to change their energy habits “if we want to remain the economic leader of the world.”
He repeated arguments he has made in the past for the development of robust battery technology and plug-in hybrids, the use of ethanol, and the eventual transition to hydrogen, but said he worried that the current drop in gasoline prices would blunt the desire for alternatives.
My worry is, however, that a low price of gasoline will make it complacent—make us complacent about our future when it comes to energy, because I fully understand that energy is going to help determine whether or not this nation remains the economic leader in the world.
Energy is...look, let me just put it bluntly: We’re too dependent on oil....And see, low gasoline prices may mask that concern. So, first, I want to tell you that I welcome the low gasoline prices, however it’s not going to dim my enthusiasm for making sure we diversify away from oil.
The President said that the fastest way to begin to change consumer habits is the promotion of hybrid vehicles, and noted the role of tax credits.
Secondly, we’re spending money on new battery technologies. See, we envision a day in which light and powerful batteries will become available in the marketplace so that you can drive the first 40 miles on electricity, on batteries, and your car won’t have to look like a golf cart. In other words, it will be a technology that will meet consumer demand and at the same time meet a national need, which is less consumption of gasoline. These are called plug-in hybrid vehicles.
That’s not going to help rural Missouri or rural Texas, but it’s certainly going to help those who live in the cities. Most folks in the cities don’t drive more than 40 miles, so you can envision consumer habits beginning to change: You drive to work; you go home; you plug in your automobile. And you go...ride to work and go home the next—and you’re still on electricity. It’s going to change the consumption patterns. This new technology will change the consumption patterns on gasoline, which in turn will make us less dependent on crude oil, which meets a national security concern, an economic security concern, and helps us deal with an environmental concern.
The President then characterized ethanol as another technology that will change driving habits.
And in my judgment, the thing that’s preventing ethanol from becoming more widespread across the country is the lack of other types of feedstocks that are required to make ethanol—sugar works, corn works, and it seems like it makes sense to spend money, your money, on researching cellulosic ethanol, so that we could use wood chips, or switch grass, or other natural materials.
The President then characterized hydrogen as “one of the great options that’s coming down the road” but noted that its is “a longer-term project.”
For the short term, he swung his focus back to exploring for oil and gas “in our own hemisphere,” and touched briefly on the need for more liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, clean coal, nuclear, wind and solar technologies for power generation.