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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks at a Briefing on Energy Policy

1991-02-20

Thank you all very much. Thank you. Please be seated. First, let me welcome the Members of Congress who are here -- Congressman Dingell and Congressmen Lent, Sharp, and Moorhead; Senators Wallop and Johnston -- and a special welcome to them. I want to say that we want to work with them as the legislative process goes forward.

Let me also pay my respects -- in looking around, I'm told that Governor Hickel is here. Whoops, there he is -- Wally, welcome. And Governor Ashcroft, Governor Sinner. Of course, our man of the hour here, Jim Watkins, our very able Secretary. Governor Sununu, who's been working on this with all of us. Henson Moore, from -- the Deputy at the Department of Energy -- made an outstanding contribution to this. And, Linda Stuntz, thank you. And Sheila Watkins. And I thought -- Clayton -- Secretary Yeutter and Secretary Skinner and Secretary Lujan are all with us. Mike Boskin was to be. Mike Deland is here from the CEA [CEQ]. I have a method to my madness here in getting around to all of this.

Senator, welcome to you. I didn't see you earlier. And to Hank Habicht of EPA, and Jim Thompson, a former Governor, and former Governor Jim Edwards over here. Jim Thompson is uncharacteristically in the back of the room now that he's in private -- [laughter] -- --

But nevertheless, I cite all these names because this is an issue that has great appeal across all kinds of departmental lines. It's something that is really essential: a national energy strategy, and I want to announce it today. I believe it is a strategy for an energy future that is secure, efficient and environmentally sound.

I want to thank Admiral Watkins and also acknowledge and thank the efforts of so many. We now have, thanks to all, a carefully balanced energy strategy, and it is designed to diversify America's sources of energy. It's designed to encourage efficiency and conservation, spur competition throughout the energy sector, give Americans greater choices among fuels, and enhance U.S. research and development in new technologies.

The driving force behind this strategy is straightforward. It relies on the power of the marketplace, the common sense of the American people and the responsible leadership of industry and government.

Every American will benefit from the policies that we're laying out here today. Over the next two decades, this strategy will make us more energy efficient without new energy taxes. It will mean savings for consumers in energy costs. And it will improve our energy security and reduce our vulnerability in the years ahead.

Let's talk about reality here. We've already made progress toward reducing that energy vulnerability. We've diversified our suppliers so that we are not unduly reliant on any single source. What's more, through the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we've vastly improved our ability to respond flexibly to supply interruptions. And we have already begun moving on the path toward improved energy efficiency.

But we are, I will be the first to concede, a long way from total energy independence. Our imports of foreign oil have been climbing steadily since 1985 and now stand at 42 percent of our total consumption. Too many of those oil imports come from sources in troubled parts of the world.

We know that for domestic oil production, certain areas are off-limits, and justifiably so, for sound environmental reasons. But developing new, alternative energy sources takes time. Some sources of power face political problems. So, America will have to continue to import energy for years to come.

We also know that unwise and extreme measures to reduce oil imports would seriously hurt the consumer in this country and will adversely affect the working man and woman in this country, American jobs, and American industries. In the face of these realities, we must act with care, but we must act comprehensively. Our national energy strategy strikes a sound and reasonable balance, and it will achieve greater energy security without unduly burdening the consumers or the economy.

To minimize our vulnerability to foreign oil, the disruptions that come from reliance on foreign oil, this strategy takes a multifaceted approach. It will help us to find more reliable sources of energy through uncompromisingly safe and environmentally sound development. Domestic oil production will rise by 3.8 million barrels a day.

This strategy will also help us use energy more efficiently by encouraging new technologies, alternative-fueled vehicles, and conservation. With this strategy, we're working to give Americans unprecedented choice and flexibility. Instead of only finding gasoline at the corner station, we want Americans to be able to choose from a range of environmentally sound and cleaner fuels like ethanol, methanol, electricity, propane, natural gas, and cleaner gasoline.

Where America's towns and cities were once able to buy electricity from only one utility company, we want to help spur competition in the electric power business and to bring lower prices to consumers. And we plan for electricity produced from renewable sources to rise by 16 percent.

We want to build an energy future that is based on a range of diverse sources, so that never again will this nation's energy well-being be swayed by events in a single foreign country. Our approach will give Americans the flexibility, the opportunity, and the knowledge that they need in order to conserve or to change fuel sources and to cut their energy bills.

And finally, we are convinced that this strategy will keep America on the cutting edge of new energy technology. It promotes partnerships between industry and government for accelerated research in technologies like biomass and alternative fuels, or electric vehicles, high-speed rail, renewable sources like solar and geothermal power, and nuclear technologies of unprecedented safety and security.

Together with the recently-passed Clean Air Act, this National Energy Strategy will maintain an uncompromising commitment to energy security and environmental protection. And it will put America on the road to continued economic growth. We are not going to have an energy strategy that assigns the status quo to the American worker in this country. We're going to continue to grow, and we can do it soundly. And that's what this energy strategy proposes.

Nobody should assume that meeting our needs for abundant energy, a strong economy and a sound environment is going to be easy. I've just met with these Congressional leaders, these leaders in the energy field, and we've talked about this. It isn't going to be easy. But I will say that this strategy strikes a delicate balance. As always, and we're used to that, there will be critics in every corner, but none of them will propose a plan that is more comprehensive or, in my view, more carefully thought out.

So, I believe that this is a good strategy because, along with our abundant natural resources, it draws on our resourcefulness, our nation's remarkable resourcefulness. From the company that finds more energy-efficient ways to do business, to the scientist who makes a new power source practical, to the individual American at home who finds some new way to save energy, I think we can rely on the most remarkable source of power that the world has ever seen, and that's the American people.

So, I fully endorse this. Senator Wallop gave me a little good advice yesterday that Chairman Bennett Johnston concurred in, and that is that if we are going to get this national energy strategy fully adopted and the legislation that's necessary enacted, that the White House -- and they were looking at me when they said this -- the President must be fully involved. And so, I look around this room, and I see many people to whom I'm grateful for your commitment to a sound energy strategy. And I just wanted to conclude by telling you that the White House and the President will be strongly involved in trying to implement the legislation, help put through the legislation that is essential to this strategy.

There are some things I think we can do to empower the executive branch. But to get this done right and to get it done the way we must, it's going to require a lot of give-and-take; it's going to require a lot of consultation with the Congress. And I just wanted to pledge to all of you interested in this today that I will do my part. I will be fully, actively involved.

So, thank you very much for coming. And a special thanks to members of the Cabinet and the Congress. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:22 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to Representatives John D. Dingell, Norman F. Lent, Philip R. Sharp, and Carlos J. Moorhead; Senators Malcolm Wallop and J. Bennett Johnston; Governors Walter Hickel of Alaska, John D. Ashcroft of Missouri, and George A. Sinner of North Dakota; Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins; John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President; W. Henson Moore, Deputy Secretary of Energy; Linda Stuntz, Deputy Under Secretary of Energy and Director of the Office of Planning Policy and Development; Sheila Watkins, Secretary Watkins' wife; Secretary of Agriculture Clayton K. Yeutter; Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner; Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan, Jr.; Michael J. Boskin, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors; Michael Deland, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality; Hank Habicht, Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; James R. Thompson, Jr., former Governor of Illinois; and James B. Edwards, former Governor of South Carolina.

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