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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2008

Bush seeking steps to free U.S. from foreign oil sources

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

EUCLID, Ohio President Bush yesterday used a speech at a Cleveland-area manufacturer of welding equipment to promote the link between jobs and domestic oil drilling, nuclear power, and other sources of energy development.

A day after the White House predicted the next president would inherit a $482 billion budget deficit and a slower economy, Mr. Bush acknowledged that the nation faces uncertain times. He pushed oil exploration and development of alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar as part of the answer.

We need to send a clear signal to the world: We re tired of being dependent on oil from overseas, he said. Let s find it here in the United States of America.

After a quick tour of the plant and a 25-minute speech to about 500 employees at Lincoln Electric Co, he was off to raise cash for Republican congressional candidates at a $10,000- to-$25,000-per-person reception at the Gates Mills home of insurance executive Umberto Fedeli.

Lincoln s plants in the suburb of Euclid manufacture welding equipment and related materials, some of which is used in international energy production.

The company, which touts itself as The Welding Capital of the World, has done well and has continued to expand and pay profit-based bonuses to employees despite the downturn in the auto industry and other sectors of Ohio heavy manufacturing.

I ve worked hard to keep your taxes low, Mr. Bush said. Our energy policies haven t done a very good job of keeping your gasoline prices low. Therefore, it s like paying a tax. ... The problem is that gasoline prices have negated a lot of those tax cuts, and so our economy is facing uncertainty

Let me tell you this. There s no such thing as a quick fix , he said. If I had a magic wand, I d wave it. It took us a while to get to this position, and it s going to take us a while to get out of it.

He called on Congress to follow his lead in permitting more oil exploration off U.S. shores and in Alaska, noting that he repealed his father s executive order forbidding expanded off-shore drilling. He called for more nuclear energy production along with solar and wind power.

While conceding that expanded oil exploration today won t result in more crude being pumped into the market for many years, he repeatedly related the issue directly to jobs.

There s no magic wand, but it can certainly send a clear signal to the markets that the United States is no longer going to sit on the sideline, that we re going to use our new technologies to find hydrocarbons right here in the ... United States, he said.

And guess who s going to make the products that help to move that product to market? You are, and you re going to be better off for it, and so is the United States of America, he said.

While Lincoln continues to expand, Ohio s statewide economic picture has worsened. Ohio s seasonally adjusted jobless rate jumped from 6.3 percent to 6.6 percent in June while the national unemployment rate remained stagnant at 5.5 percent.

The Republican who hopes to replace him in the White House, Arizona Sen. John McCain, is in agreement with the President when it comes to expanding offshore oil exploration, but he has so far kept the Alaskan wildlife refuge off the table. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama of Illinois, opposes both.

George Bush s visit is the latest reminder of the stark choice facing Ohio families in this election: four more years of the same failed policies under John McCain or a new direction for the country under Barack Obama, said Doug Kelly, executive director of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, however, have pushed their own mixes of alternative energy sources, including cleaner coal technology, and both have said nuclear power will be part of the mix. Mr. McCain , however, has been more specific on nuclear power, calling for construction of 45 new plants by 2030.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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