Energy Policy:

House lawmakers react to President Bush's State of the Union address

During his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush outlined a series of policies to wean the United States from its "addiction" to oil. The president proposed new investment in cellulosic ethanol, hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel cells, among other ideas. But will the Fiscal Year 2007 budget live up to the president's promises? Can the new proposals truly affect U.S. energy consumption? And is the White House looking to shape the debate on energy in anticipation of this year's midterm elections? During E&ETV's State of the Union coverage, filmed in the U.S. Capitol after the president's speech, lawmakers including Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and others discuss Bush's remarks.

Transcript

Brian Stempeck: Welcome to E&ETV's event coverage of the 2006 State of the Union address, where tonight President Bush outlines several new energy initiatives. I'm Brian Stempeck. We spoke with lawmakers for their reaction.

Tom Udall: I really think that that's a good idea to put more money into renewables and into alternative sources of energy. My big problem is we should have done this in the energy bill. I mean we just passed an energy bill that was signed by the president. I don't think we invested the kind of money we need to into renewable technologies. And in fact if you look at that bill $88 billion went to establish mature industries and that's not the way we should be headed. I think that in terms of energy I would've liked to have seen a long-term vision of where we're really headed and a massive research effort that would occur year after year; to know that we're going to need the investments in that particular area and they're going to be there.

Earl Blumenauer: I am pleased that the president mentioned the American addiction to oil. I find it somewhat ironic because for five years he's been offering up policies that have actually fed that very addiction. It's also kind of curious that with all the things that he was talking about there was not one mention of the word conservation, which would be the fastest, cheapest and most efficient way to be able to reduce our dependence on unstable foreign oil. And Congress, this year, might be a little nervous with the elections coming up and with skyrocketing energy prices, so that this might help loosen things up so that we have a chance to really legislate.

Greg Walden: We've got to wean ourselves off of foreign oil, especially from these unstable countries. There's so much more we could be doing on solar and wind and geothermal and biomass. My forestry subcommittee has asked the government accounting office to look at success stories in biomass to see what works and what doesn't. And we're going to be holding some hearings on that. There's a lot more that we could be doing in those areas certainly to make America more energy independent. But I'm also glad that he's announcing initiatives to invest in more basic science research. I think that's extraordinarily important. If we're going to keep our competitive edge internationally we have to make sure we're raising kids that are the best in science and math. And that we're doing that basic research that can lead to technological breakthroughs that give us that competitive edge in our economy. I was glad to see him speak out very specifically about the need to move these alternatives, but you can't get there overnight in this country. You can't throw a switch and say, gee, tomorrow we're all renewables. But when you look at what we did for biodiesel and the incentive there, you look at what we did to incent ethanol; we are slowly making progress in the right direction.

Cathy McMorris: I was really encouraged and pleased to see the president come out with a real aggressive energy plan for this country, taking us away from our dependence on foreign oil, taking those steps that will make us more self-sufficient. For eastern Washington we're seeing a lot of interest in biodiesel, other bio products. And with the federal government coming along and saying, here, we're here to help maybe with some incentives, some additional money for research, I think we could see some results quickly too.

Roscoe Bartlett: Well I'm very pleased that he included energy in his speech. I'm very glad that he recognized our dependence on oil. I would have hoped that he would have recognized that we need a program that kind of has the breadth of putting a man on the moon and the intensity of the Manhattan Project or we're not going to get there. I'm delighted that it was in the president's speech. I might have hoped that there would've been more recognition that we need some urgency and intensity and more breadth to the program. But it's there and at the start and so let's go.

Lee Terry: Well I'm glad that he mentioned energy in the first place. I really do think that we need to get ourselves off of this addiction as he said. It's a bold initiative by way of using alternative fuels, renewable fuels and, my pet, which is hydrogen fuel cells. And I think that's the answer, particularly in weaning us off of foreign oil used in transportation. He set a goal of 2025 and didn't really fill in a lot there. So I'm glad that he's got this initiative, but I think we can do it quicker if we really have the will to do it. Well what will signify they're serious is that they'll increase the funding for research and development on these technologies, particularly finding a cheap way of extracting hydrogen from 'fill in the blank'. That's what we've got to figure out, because none of this is going to work until we find a feasible, economically feasible way of extracting the hydrogen. So if they aren't willing to commit the research to it at this point then that's, we'll all see how much will they have to accomplish is.

Brian Stempeck: Several years ago President Bush of course laid out his plan for building a hydrogen car over the next five or ten years. Do you think he's lived up to that plan so far in terms of the budgets that he's put forth?

Lee Terry: Well I have to be honest, I support the president and I just don't think he has. He talked about a bold initiative a couple of years ago or three years ago, but yet we've seen flat lined budgets on hydrogen research. We, in Congress, with my help, with my amendment, doubled the authorization for research on the hydrogen fuel cell, but yet he hasn't funded it. So I hope that part of his strategy to wean us off our addiction on foreign oil by 2025 involves the fuel cell and fully funding the research for it.

Brian Stempeck: A strong reaction from both Republicans and Democrats, looking at some of the programs that President Bush talked about in his speech; new energy programs for nuclear power, renewable fuels and other programs. Both Republicans and Democrats say that they'll be looking to see what kind of money the president puts towards these efforts in his next budget due out in a few weeks. Bringing E&ETV event coverage, I'm Brian Stempeck.

[End of Audio]

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