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Bush Outlines Plan To Curb Oil Use

President Bush delivers remarks about energy before a group at Johnson Controls, Inc. Monday, Feb. 20, 2006, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP
Saying the nation is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that would "startle" most Americans, President Bush on Monday outlined his energy proposals to help wean the country off foreign oil.

The same day, oil prices rose more than $1.50 a barrel in response to violent militant action against oil pipelines in the Niger Delta that led to a 20 percent cut to Nigeria's oil production.

Militants attacked a Shell-oil operated oil pipeline switching station and a boat, vowing to spread their campaign across the petroleum-rich south from where most of the African oil giant's crude is pumped. The group took nine foreign oil workers hostage over the weekend.

The latest violence didn't cause further production cuts but sent oil prices higher.

Less than half the crude oil used by refineries is produced in the United States, while 60 percent comes from foreign nations, Mr. Bush said during the first stop on a two-day trip to talk about energy.

Some of these foreign suppliers have "unstable" governments that have fundamental differences with America, he said.

"It creates a national security issue and we're held hostage for energy by foreign nations that may not like us," Bush said.

Mr. Bush is focusing on energy at a time when Americans are paying high power bills to heat their homes this winter and have only recently seen a decrease in gasoline prices.

One of Mr. Bush's proposals would expand research into smaller, longer-lasting batteries for electric-gas hybrid cars, including plug-ins. He highlighted that initiative with a visit Monday to the battery center at Milwaukee-based auto-parts supplier Johnson Controls Inc.

During his trip, Mr. Bush is also focusing on a proposal to increase investment in development of clean electric power sources, and proposals to speed the development of biofuels such as "cellulosic" ethanol made from wood chips or sawgrass.

Energy conservation groups and environmentalists say they're pleased that the president, a former oil man in Texas, is stressing alternative sources of energy, but they contend his proposals don't go far enough. They say the administration must consider greater fuel-efficiency standards for cars, and some economists believe it's best to increase the gas tax to force consumers to change their driving habits.

At a company working on batteries for hybrid cars, Mr. Bush hailed the technology, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller. In this midterm election year — Mr. Bush wants Republicans to be seen leading the effort to help the United States kick its addiction to oil, Knoller reports.