Clinton Urges Cutting Oil Dependence

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2006 — -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for the United States to cut "our dependence on foreign oil by at least 50 percent by the year 2025."

She delivered her second "major policy address" in a series of such speeches around the country as she runs for re-election in New York and lays the groundwork for a presidential run in 2008.

Clinton, D-N.Y., addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday against the backdrop of high gas prices and record profits for oil companies.

Clinton said dependence can be reduced through innovation and efficiency. The senator said the United States needs to convert its liquid fuel base from oil to bio-mass (such as ethanol from Iowa farmers). She went on to call for changing "our reliance on high-carbon electricity sources to low-carbon electricity sources" such as solar and wind energy. And Clinton also called for getting more efficiency from cars, buildings, power plants and manufacturing processes.

"We can't just point fingers and sort of place blame on anyone else. Foreigners over there, oil companies over here ... the ball is in our court. It is up to us to act and to act soon. It is going to require a virtual revolution in our thinking about energy and in the actions that must follow," said Clinton.

The nominal front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination made sure to express her dissatisfaction with the country's current energy policy.

"Our present system of energy is weakening our national security, hurting our pocketbooks, violating our common values, and threatening our children's future. Right now, instead of national security dictating our energy policy, our failed energy policy dictates our national security," Clinton said.

The Republican National Committee and the Iowa Republican Party were quick to respond. "Senator Clinton's energy policy consists of a unique balancing act involving partisanship, political pandering and yesterday's mistakes," said RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

Clinton's support for ethanol and renewable fuels "is nothing short of transparent pandering to curry favor with Iowa voters," said Cullen Sheehan, the executive director of the Iowa Republican Party.

Of course, Clinton doesn't only get criticism from Republicans these days. Her vote to authorize military force in Iraq and her continued support for keeping American troops there drew opposition from anti-war activists Tuesday.

As Clinton was winding down her energy remarks, two anti-war protesters from the liberal group Code Pink interrupted her by shouting, "But Senator Clinton you haven't mentioned the war for oil in the Middle East. You give a whole talk on energy policy, but you haven't mentioned the war. Stop the war! Stop the war!"

National Press Club security agents removed the protesters from the ballroom and Clinton neither skipped a beat during her closing remarks nor acknowledged the protesters in any fashion.

During the Q&A session after the speech, Clinton was asked if she regretted her vote for authorizing force in Iraq. She repeated her oft-used line, "I regret the way the president has used the authority he was given."

She went on to say that now that a new, permanent Iraqi government is taking shape, the United States must "make it very clear that the Iraqis are responsible for their own security, the Iraqis are responsible for ending the sectarian violence, the Iraqis are responsible for making sure the electricity is on, and we have to make that very very clear.

" ... We are getting to a point where we will be able to deal with an Iraqi government and I think at that point we have to make it absolutely clear to them that the United States has sacrificed a great deal for this moment for the Iraqis to have a government of their own choosing, elected in a free election, that must recognize the differences among the people of Iraq and work to create a unified Iraq, and once we get to that point then I think we can make other decisions, but I don't think we're there quite yet, but we should be there soon," she said in a thinly veiled reference to withdrawing troops.

Unlike Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards -- two potential rivals for the Democratic nomination in 2008 -- Clinton has never expressed regret for her vote or stated that her vote was a mistake. Her refusal to do so could drive some liberals (who make up a significant portion of the Democratic primary electorate) away from her candidacy, should she decide to seek her party's nomination.

"She is the prohibitive front-runner for a whole host of reasons," said Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf who served as a deputy campaign manager on Kerry's presidential campaign. However, he cautioned that Iraq could be a stumbling block in the 2008 nomination process.

"I think the Democratic Party in general in 2008 faces this problem, which I think will get resolved in the primary ... It's a significant division of opinion within the party," he said.