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Public Papers - 1991 - October

Remarks at the Announcement of Agreement Between the Department of Energy and the Advanced-Battery Consortium.

1991-10-25

Thank you all. And, Jim Watkins, thank you very much. You may want to sit there, this is fairly long. [Laughter] May I salute not only Secretary Watkins but Secretary Mosbacher; and Bill Reilly, our Administrator; Chairman Deland was, here he is here, Mike Deland. And, of course, single out Senator Johnston and Senator Riegle with us today.

And I would like to thank the three representatives of the automotive industry who are with us and who have had such an important part to play in all of this. Welcome to the White House, all of you, and to an event that shows how America's genius rests on the timeless qualities of enterprise and ingenuity, qualities which can make the next century the new American century.

When I first heard I'd be getting together with America's competing big three, I thought Jennings, Rather and Brokaw would descend on the White House. [Laughter] So, this is a very pleasant experience, and, actually, I think it's terrific that these three large motor companies were brought together in mutual cooperation.

Earlier today, I mentioned to one of my grandkids this idea that I'd be out here giving a speech about electric batteries. He said, ``I hope it's not interrupted by that pink bunny with a drum.'' [Laughter]

Six months ago, Chrysler, Ford and GM, together with California Edison and the Electric Power Research Institute, formed a consortium to develop improved batteries for electric automobiles. And they knew that widespread use of electric vehicles wouldn't become a reality until someone built more powerful, less expensive electric batteries.

And today, I am very proud to announce this agreement between this consortium and our Department of Energy, supported by utilities and battery manufacturers, to move us closer to that day. We've joined in a 4-year research project to create a new generation of batteries. And the goal: nothing less than to make electric vehicles competitive by the year 2000.

This private-public partnership will employ market forces, as Jim mentioned, to protect natural resources and point us toward a cleaner, more prosperous fuel and future. And it will help us reduce dependence on foreign oil and help us reduce pollution. It will also create American jobs for engineers and scientists during this R D period and for battery manufacturers and then the support industries as this project moves into commercial production.

You know, regulating increased fuel economy will not significantly reduce our dependence on uncertain sources of foreign oil. And to accomplish that, we need alternatives to gasoline, and the electric vehicle is one of the most attractive alternatives around. The development of a competitive electronic auto industry will do more to reduce oil imports than rigid fuel efficiency standards that risk jobs and public safety. And let's remember: senseless overregulation is always a one-way dead end.

But while batteries have brought us together today, batteries are not all that this day is about. The group gathered here points to a new way of doing business: combining industry and Government's intellectual and productive assets to sustain our competitiveness in the whole international arena. Electric vehicles represent the next technology milestone in the auto industry. And we intend to beat our competitors to that milestone.

Today's agreement embodies an idea whose time has come, that Government and business can help America outthink, outwork, and outperform any nation in the world.

Earlier this year, I announced the administration's national energy strategy, a blueprint of powerful ideas for America's future. And I want to salute Senator Bennett Johnston who's been a key leader. I don't want to say partner because that might make you all believe he believes in every detail we are emphasizing. But he's done a superb job up there in the Congress working with the Department of Energy and the White House. And I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to encourage support for our energy bill.

The agreement fits into the blueprint of America's future being strong. It reflects our commitment to diversify transportation fuels. I believe there's plenty of safeguard for the environment in it, advancing technology and increasing industry participation in research and development.

And that strategy is key to achieving for all Americans a secure, clean, and affordable energy future. The U.S. Senate will soon consider comprehensive energy legislation -- it's Senate bill 1220 -- incorporating many of the principles that shape our strategy. And I urge Congress to do its part by enacting strong energy legislation like Senate bill 1220. This legislation is environmentally sound. It does not threaten to throw a lot of automobile workers out of work by enacting excessive CAFE standards.

And it was once observed, ``Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky.'' It is also people dreaming dreams of endless possibility, caring, toiling, creating, and achieving.

And let me thank you all for coming to the White House. And it's now my privilege to witness the signing of an agreement that reaffirms the spirit of America, that tomorrow will be even better, brighter, and greater than today.

Thank you all very, very much. [Applause]

Note: The President spoke at 10:42 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins; Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher; William K. Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Michael R. Deland, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Affairs; Senators J. Bennett Johnston and Donald W. Riegle, Jr.; and television network anchormen Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw.

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