Gephardt Vows to End U.S. Foreign Oil Addiction

SUNNYVALE, California, June 18, 2003 (ENS) - Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt says the United States must end its dependence on foreign oil and needs an energy policy that makes "tough choices." The Missouri Congressman outlined his plan to achieve that goal Tuesday, a policy that he believes can protect the environment and create two million new jobs.

"We can achieve true energy independence over the next 10 years," Gephardt said in a speech to the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group. "That is not some farfetched claim - it is a commitment I will make from the start of my presidency. And it is within our grasp right now."

Gephardt wants the nation to invest more in wind and solar power, to embrace hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, and to increase energy efficiency.

"We have to have an energy policy that makes the tough choices, the responsible choices today, so we can heat our homes and power our cars tomorrow," Gephardt said.

He blasted President George W. Bush for "energy plans that are bad for our economy, and downright disastrous for our air and water and public health."

"Even with war and terror in the very heart of the world's oil supply, this administration's idea of alternative fuel is still Exxon instead of Texaco," Gephardt said. Gephardt

The United States must break its dependence on foreign oil, says Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt. (Photo courtesy Gephardt 2004 Campaign)
Gephardt, who has served in the U.S. Congress for the past 26 years, is one of nine Democrats vying for the party's nomination to face Bush in the 2004 election. Several of Gephardt's Democratic rivals, including Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, have also outlined energy plans that strongly invoke national security concerns.

The United States is "shackled to Saudi oil producers," Gephardt told the California audience, but said this does not have to be the case.

"It is time we stopped behaving like the United States of Saudi Arabia, and started working toward total economic freedom from Saudi Arabia, from the oil it exports and from the radical fundamentalism it has visited on the world," Gephardt said.

The Missouri Congressman's plan, which he has dubbed "Apollo 21," calls for a new partnership with the auto industry to build one million hybrid cars by 2010, and 2.5 million fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

This partnership would be complemented by new tax incentives to make those vehicles more affordable to consumers as well as by a commitment to make the federal government "a leading purchaser," Gephardt explained.

But unlike some of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Gephardt did not embrace increased fuel efficiency standards - a policy that many environmentalists believe is key to reducing oil consumption. Gephardt did not avoid the issue, however, acknowledging that he has often voted against higher standards for fear they would cost American jobs.

"I do not apologize for that," he said. "As president, I will bring together business and labor and environmental leaders, so they can work together to set new fuel-efficiency targets, and to meet them.

Gephardt says the nation has lost more than two million manufacturing jobs under the watch of the current Bush administration, which is letting the market for renewable energy slip away to rival nations. The Bush administration has cut funds for renewable energy, Gephardt said, and has dismissed the environmental and economic benefits of these new technologies.

"As president, I will embrace, not ignore, this half-trillion-dollar worldwide industry," he said.

Gephardt's plan calls for 10 percent of the nation's energy to come from renewable sources in 10 years and at least 20 percent in 20 years. In addition, Gephardt's plan calls for 10 percent of motor fuel sales should be ethanol and other renewable fuels by 2020.

Gephardt says that his administration would give a 30 percent tax credit to businesses that generate renewable power and would double federal funding for wind and solar power. Gephardt

Gephardt wants to double federal funding for wind and other renewable energy sources. (Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
His plan would create new tax benefits for energy efficient homes, offices and appliances, and Gephardt says he would help states and cities reduce pollution and sprawl by investing in mass transit, better traffic planning, and smarter growth.

Like some of his rivals - and President Bush - Gephardt wants to increase funding for research into clean coal technology and to subsidize improvements to the natural gas supply infrastructure.

The policies in his plan will safeguard the environment, Gephardt says, something President Bush has not done. He slammed Bush for trying to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for promoting offshore drilling in California and Florida, and for trying to reinterpret the scope of the Clean Water Act.

"I do not believe in despoiling our national treasures to benefit the few," Gephardt said. "I do not believe conservation is a mere nicety - not when the alternative benefits polluters and possibly even terrorists."

The United States can not afford continued inaction on its growing oil consumption, Gephardt said, even though changing course will be challenging.

"I am not asking America to do what is easy," he said. "I am asking us to do what is hard. For I know that if we do this now we can lead the world toward a new American prosperity, an era of bounty and security for all generations to come."