Bush Talks Energy In Coal Country
This undated photo provided by the federal Transportation Security Administration shows pistol parts hidden in a stuffed animal found by TSA officials at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., Monday May 7, 2012. The TSA said Tuesday that a man traveling to Detroit with his 4-year-old son was stopped when a TSA officer noticed the disassembled gun components "artfully concealed" inside three stuffed animals. The stuffed animals were inside a carry-on bag that was put through an x-ray machine as part of normal security screening. (AP Photo/Transportation Security Administration)
"In order to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy, we've got to find and produce more energy at home, including coal," Mr. Bush told hundreds of cheering supporters in an airport hangar near Charleston.
He drew long applause after touring a distributor of heavy equipment used at mines and declaring: "We need to use coal. We got a lot of it."
The president also made his strongest statement yet on the collapse of energy giant Enron, saying his administration has done "exactly the right thing" in its dealings with the company, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller. Mr. Bush said he was "outraged" that shareholders and employees didn't have all the facts about Enron, and he pointed out that a member of his own family had lost money on the company's stock.
"My own mother-in-law bought stock last summer and it's not worth anything now," he said.
Mr. Bush said that he did not think the emerging Enron investigation will distract from his agenda. "All the facts will come out on Enron," he said.
Mr. Bush's energy plan, bottled up since last summer in the Democratic-controlled Senate, calls for a new emphasis on clean-burning coal technology. However, his budget proposal to be presented to Congress Feb. 4 keeps money about the same at $150 million for the President's Clean Coal Power Initiative, an administration official said.
Some environmentalists doubt that new technology can make coal significantly less polluting. Mr. Bush said such skeptics "must not have much faith in the technology that's coming on line."
"I don't believe we can be independent as a nation unless we've got a constructive coal policy, and so I ask Congress once and for all to pass a comprehensive energy plan including exploring for natural gas in the state of Alaska so we can be less dependent," he said.
"This is just as much of a jobs program as a national-security program, folks, and it's about time Congress skips all the politics and focuses on what's right for the American people," he said. Congress returns from a recess on Wednesday.
Mr. Bush also defended the $1.35 trillion, 10-year income tax cuts enacted last year, charging anew that Democrats who would postpone them offer the wrong prescription.
And he said increased trade would kick-start the economy. Mr. Bush is seeking expanded powers to negotiate trade pacts, but the Senate has not yet voted.
"I'm asking Congress to keep in mind one word: jobs," he said.
Mr. Bush was emphasizing his energy plan on a day when Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was coming forward with competing proposals.
Kerry's plan would raise fuel-economy standards for cars, offer tax incentives for hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and more energy-efficient homes and inest more in mass transit. It would seek to make energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal provide 20 percent of the nation's electricity.
The White House had not seen the Kerry proposal.
"Certainly the president welcomes the opportunity to engage in a productive debate on energy policy," White House spokesman Claire Buchan said.
Later Tuesday, Mr. Bush toured a Charleston heavy machinery distributor, the Cecil I. Walker Machinery Co., which sells and services Caterpillar equipment and employs more than 550 people in West Virginia and Ohio.
Over the past year, West Virginia's economy lost 4,400 jobs, mostly in manufacturing, trade and construction, though its unemployment rate of 4.5 percent is below the national rate of 5.8 percent.
As part of his economic stimulus plan, Mr. Bush seeks the repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax and accelerated depreciation of tax write-offs for businesses.
Those policies would let the Walker machinery company invest in new equipment and hire more people, he said. "There is kind of a wacky economic theory going around Washington it says the more they take of your taxes, the better off you will be," he said. "It doesn't make any economic sense. It doesn't make any dollars and cents."
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