Record Prices Fueling Energy Debate

President George W. Bush speaks as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cisco Systems President and CEO John Chambers listen during a panel on the American Competitiveness Initiative at Cisco Systems Inc. 21 April 2006 in San Jose, California. AFP/Getty Images

As Americans watch the prices on the signs at the corner gas station spin higher and higher, Republicans and Democrats spent Saturday talking about the nation's energy policy.

In his , President Bush promoted hydrogen fuel cell technology in vehicles — saying it can "revolutionize the way we power our cars." But it's still many years away from widespread use.

Mr. Bush said the technology can lead to "vehicles that will emit no pollution, and will be more efficient than gas-powered cars."

"By developing these and other new sources of clean renewable energy like ethanol," the president said, "We will continue growing our economy, reduce energy prices and protect our environment, and make America less dependent on foreign oil."

Increased federal research into alternative fuels and batteries for hybrid and electric cars is among the proposals outlined by the president in his State of the Union address. The administration is hoping that the new run-up in gas prices will pressure Congress to act on the proposals.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology won't be widely available anytime soon. And once it's here, it would require a new system of distributing hydrogen fuel to replace today's network of gasoline pumping stations.

The White House hopes the high gas prices will pressure Congress to act on the energy proposals the president outlined in his State of the Union address.

The Bush administration acknowledges that its plan does not include any measures that would reduce gas prices in the short term. But with Republicans worried that pain at the pump could hurt them in the voting booth this year, Mr. Bush said he understands Americans are hurting.

The average price for a gallon of regular gas on Saturday: $2.88
Check gas prices in your area.

In a Friday speech in San Jose, the president offered only a pledge to deal "firmly" with price gouging to address the immediate problem.

Democrats, meanwhile, contend that the Bush administration's energy plan places too much emphasis on drilling reserves and not enough on alternative fuels.

On Saturday, Democrats called on Americans in general — and President Bush in particular — to take "dramatic" steps to cut fuel consumption.

"The administration's emphasis is on drilling, a strategy many experts say won't make a dent in the U.S. oil problem," Florida Senator Bill Nelson said in the party's .

He recalled how Americans waited in massive gas lines 30 years ago. He says that, even then, the president promised the U-S would achieve "energy independence."

Nelson called on the current administration to make tough policy changes to help cure the American addiction to oil.

"We have the technology to raise the mileage standard for all passenger vehicles to at least 40 miles per gallon. The president has urged only a modest 2 miles-per-gallon increase for light trucks," he said.

The Florida Democrat pointed out that the U.S. has only three percent of the world's oil reserves, yet Americans consume 25 percent of the world's oil production. He also warned that the energy crisis will only get worse — perhaps in the event of a terrorist attack on a super-tanker, or a "mega-hurricane" shutting down Gulf Coast refineries.
  • James Klatell

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