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COLUMBUS - President Bush yesterday traveled to Ohio with a familiar message: Congress must approve stalled initiatives that he said would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Mr. Bush said uncertainties about the nation's energy supply are restraining the U.S. economy, and technology advances can boost domestic energy supplies without harming the environment.
"Higher prices at the gas pump and rising home-heating bills, and the possibility of blackouts are legitimate concerns for all Americans," Mr. Bush said in a speech at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial.
He made similar comments at a 2003 Labor Day rally and at several campaign speeches in Ohio during last year's presidential election.
A former Texas oilman, the President spoke on the same day as crude oil futures rose above $55 a barrel.
Prices are more than 50 percent higher than they were just one year ago, with retail gasoline prices expected to reach a record-high this spring of $2.15 a gallon.
Mr. Bush said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soon will complete work on a rule to reduce emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide from coal-burning power plants in Ohio and 28 other states.
The rule will help bring the air quality for Ohioans in five counties into compliance with health standards by the 2010 deadline, said Staci Putney McLennan, director of clean-air programs for the Ohio Environmental Council. They affected counties would be Summit, Mahoning, Franklin, Butler, and Lawrence.
Also, a new EPA rule will provide the first national cap on mercury emissions from power plants, Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush urged Congress to approve an energy policy bill, including a provision to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, referred to as ANWR.
"We can now reach all of ANWR's oil by drilling on just 2,000 acres. That is the size of the Columbus airport. It would eventually reduce our dependence on foreign oil by up to one million barrels of oil a day," the President said to loud applause.
Mr. Bush said coal should be at the "heart of the nation's energy strategy."
Most of the coal in southeast Ohio is high in sulphur, which makes it more difficult to use while still meeting air-quality standards.
U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat whose district stretches from southeast Ohio to the suburbs of Youngstown, said he is opposed to drilling for oil in ANWR.
He called it a "partial and temporary answer to our energy's needs," and added that there are "some parts of our Earth that we should at least hold in abeyance for future generations."
He also said the energy bill that Mr. Bush is backing would favor lower-sulfur coal from western states over higher-sulfur coal from Ohio.
Before his speech, Mr. Bush toured Battelle Memorial Institute, and said he met with researchers who are working on technology advances to "burn coal cleanly."
Mr. Strickland said the energy bill that Mr. Bush wants does not place enough emphasis on conservation and using renewable sources.
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