Feb. 21, 2006 — -- President Bush is turning a lot of heads this week with another big push for alternative sources of energy.
In the State of the Union address, he spoke about hydrogen-powered cars and fueling cars with switchgrass and wood chips. Now he's talking about hybrid cars.
More than 200,000 Americans bought a hybrid car last year -- they run on both gas and an electric battery. The president said that if more Americans drove them, the nation could significantly decrease its dependence on foreign oil.
"The plug-in hybrid, they estimate, can initially go 40 miles on electricity alone," the president said.
"I know it came as a shock to some to hear a Texan stand up there in front of the country and say, 'We've got a real problem; America is addicted to oil,'" Bush said.
Today, Bush is expected to visit the Energy Department's Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado.
Some environmentalists are shocked, but pleased, that the world's most famous former oil man is suddenly speaking their language.
"It's wonderful. In about a year, everyone's going to hear about plug-in hybrids," said Felix Kramer, a member of a California grass-roots group that is pushing for cars that can plug into a wall and that use even less gas than the hybrids on the road today.
The United States imports 10 million barrels of oil a day to meet current demand. One group said imports could be slashed by 8 million barrels a day by 2025 if every car on the road was a hybrid and half of them were the kind that plug in.
But Detroit has been slow to embrace hybrids, leaving consumers with few options. Some say the president needs to push even harder to get the new technology on the road. Critics say the president is putting enough money behind his energy ideas.
"We think the president could be bolder," Kramer said. "He could call up the president of a car company and say, 'Make this happen now.'"
The president also said that wind turbines could supply up to 20 percent of the nation's electricity, but Democrats say his budget for wind energy hasn't increased since 2001.
"This is mostly a rhetorical offensive more than it is a spending offensive," said Jerry Taylor of the CATO Institute, a Washington think tank.
Much of what the president is proposing is years, even decades, away from happening. But even Bush's harshest critics have trouble arguing with the president's newfound passion for alternative sources of energy.
To learn more about Felix Kramer's organization, visit the web site at www.calcars.org.