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National Archives

Public Papers - 1991 - July

Remarks on the National Energy Strategy


Please be seated. Thank you all very much. Well, may I just thank everybody for coming, and first of all greet our Secretaries: Jim Watkins, who is doing an absolutely superb job on the energy front, and I'm delighted that he's here. And I think after I do my number here, why, he will get into a lot more of the substance. But I want to salute also Manuel Lujan and Bill Reilly, key players in our drive to do a better job on the energy front.

And of course, we have in the front row, in case those of you in the back haven't seen them, Senator Wallop and Senator Bennett Johnston and Phil Sharp. And Mike Deland is over here. I'm getting in trouble because I'm going to -- I thought Martin Allday was supposed to be here from FERC. There he is, right there in the second row -- Midland, Texas, man. [Laughter] Thank you again.

Five months ago -- and many of you, maybe not all, but put it this way, most were probably here that day -- we announced our comprehensive and balanced strategy for an energy future that is secure, efficient, and environmentally sound. And our national energy strategy is designed to meet needs this Nation can't afford to compromise: continued economic growth, increased energy efficiency, strong environmental protection, and then a reduced dependence on foreign oil.

This strategy relies on the magic of the marketplace, the resourcefulness of the American people, and the responsible leadership of industry and government. As we enter the next American century, this balanced approach will propel a larger and larger American economy in a more and more energy-efficient way.

And some have pushed for radical measures in order to reduce the oil imports and reduce our dependency, measures that, in my view, would hurt American industries and jobs and consumers. So, we've got to act with care; but it is our firm belief that we've got to act comprehensively.

And our energy strategy strikes a balance. We believe it is a sound and reasonable middle ground that will achieve greater energy security without endangering the environment or stopping the economy in its tracks.

We start by using energy more efficiently. And we've got to accelerate our research efforts to keep America on the cutting edge of new energy technologies like alternative fuels, electric cars, high-speed rail, solar, and geothermal, safer and more secure nuclear technology. Today, we want to build an energy future that opens the door to new and diverse energy sources because our energy future should never be at the mercy of foreign exporters.

As Jim Watkins will tell you, most of the initiatives contained in this strategy can be implemented under existing authority. And the administration has already made, I think, a great deal of progress. We've set in motion a substantial part of the strategy already, in other words, without waiting for needed legislation -- legislation that's needed in other areas.

On the legislative front, we've made substantial headway since we released the strategy last February. And I just can't tell you how much I appreciate the leadership of the Members of Congress that are here. We're talking principally about the Senate bill here, but Senator Johnston and Senator Wallop, the Senate energy committee passed a comprehensive and a balanced energy bill, one which embodies the key elements of our strategy. And for them it hasn't been easy. They've had to compensate and consider a lot of interests up there, but they've done a superb job. And I urge the full Senate to act swiftly on this bill which should win support from conservationists and industry alike.

There's been a lot said about the Johnston-Wallop bill -- some of it, frankly, not very accurate. Let me tell you what it actually does. On balance, it defines a very positive role in energy for the Federal Government. It enhances efficiency, energy efficiency, in areas like building efficiency standards, Federal energy management efforts, energy conservation investments by utilities, and the development of new transportation technologies and alternative fuels.

On the supply side, it ensures access to the energy we need to sustain continued growth, growth that is environmentally sound. And we've made a lot of progress on cleaner burning gasoline over the last few years -- private industry doing a superb job with its own research in this area. And in the bill before the Senate, we've encouraged the use of a whole range of environmentally sound fuels like ethanol, methanol, electricity, propane, and certainly, encouraging the use of more clean burning natural gas.

We anticipate that the Johnston-Wallop bill will reach the Senate floor hopefully right after the August recess. I would defer to the experts, but that's what we're hoping for. It won't get there -- they've a pretty full calendar before the August recess. The House began markup on the bill last week, and we're hoping for the same comprehensive approach there that was achieved in the Senate.

We need Congress to act wisely and, I think, act soon -- and I know these Members agree with that -- on this important domestic policy initiative. And we need action on all fronts: to remain world leaders in technology; to protect the environment; to make the most of our domestic resources; and to encourage energy efficiency through incentives for industrial, commercial, and private consumers.

Unfortunately, some critics don't seem to see the big picture. They focus on one or two issues that admittedly are controversial. And if I think they're controversial, talk to these Senators and Congressmen about it, because they get hammered on all sides on these issues. ANWR clearly is one of them.

And let me give you a little history. In 1980, Congress specifically avoided designating part of the coastal plain in Alaska -- the ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- as wilderness. And instead, Congress asked the Interior Department to determine whether the resources of ANWR could be developed without harming the environment.

Well, since then, Interior has conducted or examined more than 170 studies. And time after time, these studies have shown that under strict environmental oversight, ANWR's coastal plain and its resources could, indeed, be developed safely. The wildlife will be protected. John Turner, the Director of Fish and Wildlife, is here today, and he's conducted rigorous studies. The way of life will be protected. And finally, the State of Alaska fully supports ANWR's development.

So, I urge the Congress to take a look at these facts -- more than 170 studies and the considered opinion of Alaska's own government -- and not to be distracted by the critics, many of whom come from the extreme side. There are some that aren't, that just reasonably have doubt, but we cannot let our policy be shaped in this manner. And so, please encourage people to take a look at the record.

Of course, all of you are here today because you can make a difference in the energy future of this country. And some people act as if Washington can snap its fingers and impose an energy strategy on the rest of the country. We know that just won't work.

The best part of our strategy is that it does draw upon our greatest resource -- I'd call it a national resource -- and that is the ingenuity of our own people. With their resourcefulness, we can ensure that America in the next century will be energy efficient, environmentally sound, and economically strong.

And so, I really wanted to come over here today, first of all, to say thank you, to salute those Members of Congress who are out front and laying it on the line -- it's not without a political downside to any of them -- to stand up courageously for the kind of program that we've talked about here. And as Bennett, Malcolm, and Congressman Sharp will tell you, sure there are differences from time to time, but we're all on the same general track here. And I think it's the right one for our country.

So, I want to thank you for your support. And I hope -- and I'm right confident, looking around this room -- that we can count on your continuing support. So, thank you all very much for your interest, taking the time from these fantastically busy schedules that everybody around this room has. And we're with you. I'm strongly in support of this program that our able Secretary, Jim Watkins, will outline in more detail. And once again, thanks for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 2:53 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins; Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan, Jr.; William K. Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Senator Malcolm Wallop; Representative Philip R. Sharp; Michael R. Deland, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Martin L. Allday, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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