Bush touts alternative fuels plan at DuPont


Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

WILMINGTON, Del. — President Bush, trying to generate traction from his State of the Union address, campaigned Wednesday for an energy plan that targets Americans' gas-guzzling habits.

On a quick trip to Delaware, Bush warned that the nation's reliance on oil poses a national security threat. The United States must come to rely on its own sources of fuels, not the oil-rich lands of those who pose dangers to the nation, he said.

"You don't want your president sitting in the Oval Office worried about the activities of a hostile regime that can have all kinds of impacts on our security, starting with economic security," Bush told employees of DuPont, one of the largest researchers of alternative fuels.

In another of Washington's many political ironies, Bush was visiting the home town of Sen. Joe Biden even as the Delaware Democrat was laboring in the Senate to push forward a resolution disapproving the president's war buildup in Iraq.

In his talk here, Bush said that a too-heavy dependence on oil "means that if a terrorist were able to destroy infrastructure somewhere else in the world, it's going to affect what you pay at the gasoline pump."

His comments came as the White House tried to keep some attention on Bush's domestic agenda, which has been overshadowed by the loud debate over Iraq.

Bush's new initiative calls for reducing gasoline consumption by up to 20 percent over 10 years by increasing alternative fuels and raising fuel economy standards for cars.

The president signed an executive order Wednesday to cut down on the federal government's use of gas and increase use of alternative fuels.

In Delaware, Bush toured the DuPont Experimental Station to tout its research on cellulosic ethanol — one of the main fuels that Bush touts as an alternative to oil.

He took a hands-on approach as scientists walked him through the process of converting raw materials to fermentable sugars to fuel. Bush picked up bottles of milled corn stover, poked his fingers into a beaker of wood chips and picked up a handful of switchgrass.

"What our citizens got to know is that because of the research you're doing here — with some of their taxpayers' money to help you — that switchgrass .... could end up being the fuel that powers their automobiles," Bush said in the DuPont greenhouse. "That's important."

DuPont is leading a science-based consortium that is researching how to break down entire corn plants — including the stalk and leaves — into biofuels.

In his comments to DuPont workers, Bush said the day is coming when people can commonly use plug-in batteries for their cars. The United States is spending public money on such research.

"You're going to be able to drive the first 20 miles on electricity — and your car is not going to have to look like a golf cart," Bush said.

The Bush administration is asking Congress for the power to set high fuel efficiency standards for cars, using a system it says will preserve choices for customers and protect vehicle safety. But it opposes any legislation that would simply set a higher fuel economy standard.

With Democrats running Congress and his own popularity slumping, Bush had to offer a modest agenda. His energy plan along with a health insurance program were the signature items.

Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said the energy plan may find plenty of support of Congress because of bipartisan support for alternative fuels.

"That one is a little bit more ripe for a full-fledged discussion," Perino said.

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