WASHINGTON--The world is in the early days of an energy revolution for clean technology, a shift the United States is committed to for economic, political, and environmental reasons, President George Bush said in a speech here Wednesday.
The president spoke to delegates from more than 120 countries at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) 2008, where he described what the United States has done to promote biofuels, fuel efficiency, and renewable power sources like wind.
"America has to change its habits. It has to get off oil. Until we change our habits, we are going to be dependent on oil," Bush said.
He remarked that the United States now imports 60 percent of its oil, up from 20 percent in 1985, a situation that leaves the country vulnerable to economic disruptions and attacks from terrorist groups.
The concentration of greenhouse gases has increasingly substantially as well from burning fossil fuels, causing global climate change, Bush said.
The United States does not participate in the United Nations-led Kyoto Protocol for reducing emissions, but it is committed to climate change regulations. The U.S. has organized a forum to create regulations for limiting greenhouse gases. The forum is outside the U.N.; the U.S. has established a parallel process to create regulations.
During Bush's term, he has come under harsh criticism from environmentalists. The prospect of a lapsed renewable energy tax credit at the end of this year has also attracted barbs toward the White House and Senate from businesspeople in the renewable-energy industry.
But Bush said the U.S. is serious about being a good steward of the environment, as long as regulations are consistent with economic growth.
"Look, I understand that stereotypes are hard to defeat. People get an image planted in their head and sometimes it causes them not to listen to the facts. But America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence, we're in the lead when it comes to new technologies, we're in the lead when it comes to global climate change and it will stay that way," he said.
Bush listed provisions in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was signed late last year, including higher mandates for ethanol, biodiesel, raised fuel economy standards, and incentives for hybrid cars.
But he also recognized the growing problem of food prices being pushed up from the growing demand for corn-based ethanol and biodiesel. The U.S. and other countries need to accelerate the transition to cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from grasses, wood, and agricultural wastes.
"I'd rather have corn farmers growing energy rather than import oil from countries that may not like us--that's how I view it," he said.
Bush repeated calls for aggressive development of nuclear power and highlighted steps the administration has taken to spur construction of new plants, including construction loan guarantees and research with other countries on nuclear waste disposal.
He also touted wind power and said his native Texas is the leading producer of wind power. And he said he envisions a day when every home "will be an electrical generator of their own and feed it back to the grid through solar power."
In the last full year of his term, Bush indicated that he is thinking about his legacy as a president in regard to energy and climate change. Before delivering the speech at WIREC, he said he reflected on what people would be saying 10 years from now about his administration--and about the pace of technological development in clean technologies.
"I'm confident that when we look back at this period of time, we'll say how could we have doubted the capacity of mankind to develop the technologies necessary to deal with the real problems of the 21st century," he said.