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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Samuel Bodman
Samuel Bodman
Secretary of Energy
April 20, 2005

Secretary Bodman will be joining us in just a minute. Please stay tuned.

Tim, from North Carolina writes:
I,m not a very smart man, but with the down sizing in America today all for that ever important dollar. Why don't we look at what we can grow as an alternate fuel source. Also if you guys are serious then what about some tax breaks like there was in the 1970's for alternate fuels or solar. With the millions this country collects and taxes on these fuels we could spend a small percent of this money and come up with some better cleaner methods.

Samuel Bodman
Thanks for your question. First, let me say that the President’s comprehensive energy policy focuses heavily on conservation, technology and greater overall efficiency, as well as the development of renewable and alternative fuel sources. These are important parts of our overall strategy, and it’s important the Congress act to get comprehensive energy legislation to the President this year.

As for alternative fuels the President has committed significant resources toward the further development of ethanol, biofuels and other alternative fuel sources. Since 2000, U.S. production and use of ethanol has more than doubled, and this year alone, we’re proposing to spend over $200 million for alternative fuels, including ethanol which is made from corn. We have also proposed $1.2 billion for the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

To your question about tax incentives, the answer is, we are doing it!

The President’s 2006 budget request contains over $6.7 billion in tax incentives for greater production of renewable electricity from wind, biomass, and landfill gas; as well as the purchase of residential solar energy systems. In addition, we’ve also proposed significant tax credits for Americans who purchase hybrid vehicles.

JosieK, from Raleigh, North Carolina writes:
How can nuclear energy be "clean", "safe", and "healthy?" What about the recent notion that many spent fuel roda may now be lost? ANd why isn't there a larger budget for the expansion and research in the renewable energy field? Thank you.

Samuel Bodman
First, let me say that nuclear energy is, in fact, clean and safe. In terms of environmental impact, nuclear power plants have, perhaps, the lowest impact on our environment because they do not emit pollution or greenhouse gasses.

Nuclear power plants are very safe. They are heavily regulated by the government, and have been designed to withstand incredible forces. Nuclear power produces about 20 percent of America’s electricity – and a much larger percent in a number of other countries.

But expanding nuclear power is only one part of a much larger plan. Did you know that the Department of Energy spends more on energy efficiency and renewable energy than we do on fossil fuel and nuclear energy combined?

In fact, at the President’s direction we are investing in new, renewable energy technologies. For example, the capacity of electricity-generating wind turbines has also more than doubled, and through our research and development efforts we continue to make progress in bringing down the cost of solar power.

Betty, from Hillsville, Virginia writes:
Why is there such silence from the news media regarding our current major problem with increasing gas prices? I listen to the news hoping to hear what we Americans should expect now and in the future...but never hear this subject addressed. Would you comment on this issue? Thank you.

Samuel Bodman
The high price of gas is something that the President is very concerned about, and something we’re working on. The situation we’re experiencing today have been years in the making, and cannot be solved by flipping a switch. But there are things we can do.

First, these prices reflect tight supplies and growing world demand. Because the economies of India and China have been expanding rapidly, they are consuming more and more oil. That’s why it’s important to further develop domestic natural gas and oil resources. This will allow us to become less dependant on foreign oil, while also creating thousands of jobs here at home.

The other thing we can do to help is fix the burdensome regulatory process that, in part, stymies our ability to build refineries. This is a big deal, because even after we import the oil, we sometimes don’t have enough capacity to refine it into gasoline and get the gas to consumers, which leads to tight supplies and rising costs.

Did you know that the President has called on Congress to pass an energy bill to help address these issues over 63 times? We hope that the Congress will pass this bill which will help address these issues in the long term and get it to the President before the summer recess.

David, from Lawrence, KS writes:
Is there anything in the President's Energy bill that will provide immediate relief for gas prices? The way they are right now, Americans like me can't afford to wait 5 or 10 years for oil from Alaska or cheap hybrid cars.

Samuel Bodman
Your question is a good one – and one that I’m asked often.

These fundamental problems that caused the high gas prices that we’re experiencing today were largely ignored during the 1990s and will not be fixed overnight. But we have the opportunity to pass an energy bill today that will help alleviate these types of problems in the future. If Congress acted on the plan the President proposed four years ago, we’d be in a better position today.

In the immediate term, this Administration has personally been encouraging oil-producing countries to maximize their production overseas. In addition, we’re also working to make sure that American families are being treated fairly, and not being price gouged at the pump.

Frank, from Orlando, FL writes:
WE need to diversify our energy use away from dependence on Arabian oil.

Does the government have a hydrogen pilot study program? I surely hope so.

Samuel Bodman
Thanks for this important question. Yes, in fact, President Bush has committed $1.7 billion to developing hydrogen technologies. We’re making great progress too.

Recently, we’ve seen hydrogen refueling stations open in California, Florida and Washington, DC as part of a national demonstration project. Projects like these move hydrogen technologies from the science lab to the street, so we can test both the vehicles and refueling stations under “real world” conditions. For instance, different climates can affect the performance and durability of fuel cells, and different options for producing and delivering hydrogen need to be explored.

We believe if this level of activity continues, a child growing up today will be able to take his or her drivers license test on a hydrogen vehicle.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Secretary Bodman: The Presidents Energy Policy has been on the debate side for over a year. Is there one paticular section or several sections that the Congress seems to be stalled on? Do you expect some movement on the Policy issue soon? Thank You.

Samuel Bodman
Traditionally, energy legislation has been contentious, and, in fact, major energy legislation has not been passed since 1992. But today, with rising energy prices there is a real need for Congress to act on the energy bill. Let me be clear, we do not view energy legislation as a partisan issue, but rather as a commonsense way to address real problems that exist today and improve our energy and economic security in the future.

There is a lot in the comprehensive energy bill that we all can agree on. Increased domestic energy production; increased conservation and efficiency; a reliable electricity delivery system; and reduced dependence on foreign sources of energy. Unfortunately, as is too often the case in Washington, commonsense is pushed aside when partisanship takes hold.

One of the best things Congress can do for the American people this year is work together to pass and deliver a comprehensive energy bill to the President.

Keith, from San Diego writes:
With the rising demand of oil, and the large usage increase from China, what is this administration doing to support alternative sources of energy such as fuel cell powered cars?

Samuel Bodman
Great question. We believe that alternative fuel vehicles, like those powered by hydrogen have tremendous promise. The President has committed $1.7 billion toward the development of these vehicles, and, in fact, we have several programs like the FreedomCar and Hydrogen Fuel initiatives that are working toward this goal.

For example, I already mentioned the demonstration projects we’re working on. Throughout the course of their research, our partners will test 134 fuel cell vehicles and up to 28 hydrogen refueling stations under different conditions throughout the country. We hope that through our attention, investment and effort, the hydrogen vehicle will be as commonplace as the cars we drive today.

While there are a number of technological challenges to overcome before this vision is realized, we’re making good progress.

Philip, from Roscoe, Ill. writes:
Why is the President's plan so heavily weighted in favor of the oil, gas and coal industries? Why didnt the President formulate something far more robust and forward-looking than the trivialities presented in this bill?

Samuel Bodman
Phillip, I’m glad you brought this up, because this is a common misconception.

It’s true that the President’s energy plan encourages the development of domestic oil, gas and coal resources. Commonsense dictates that we should reduce our dependence on foreign energy by developing the 10.4 billion barrels of oil in Alaska, which would pump about 1 million barrels a day into the United States, as well as the 250 years worth of coal in an environmentally friendly way.

This, however, is only a small part of the overall plan!

The plan that is before Congress now meets four important objectives: First, the energy bill should encourage the use of technology to improve conservation and efficiency; second, we should develop our existing domestic resources; third, we need to diversify our energy sources by further developing fuels from renewable sources, like ethanol; Finally, modernize our domestic energy infrastructure. So that the energy we produce can be delivered to our homes in a safe, secure, reliable way.

Sarah, from La Mesa, CA writes:
Hello Sec. Bodman. Right now it is difficult to predict which cars (battery powered, flexible fuel, etc.) have staying power and will continue to gain infrastructure support and which will soon become obsolete. What advice do you have for someone who is interested in purchasing a fuel-efficient, environmentally responsible vehicle that will be viable and practical for years to come? Thank you. Have a great day

Samuel Bodman
There are a number of affordable, high quality gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles on the market today, and more models are in the works for the next few years. In addition, a number of cars and other vehicles on the market today can run either on gasoline or on an ethanol mixture (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) that is available at more and more service stations. There are also a number of new diesel cars available for purchase today that get much better mileage than ever before without sacrificing any of the performance American motorists have come to expect. Diesel models include a Volkswagen Beetle that gets up to 46 miles per gallon, a Jeep Liberty and a Mercedes-Benz E-320. Models that can use either gasoline or the ethanol mixture include the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Ram pickup, Ford Explorer, Mercury Sable, Chevy Suburban, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Mercedez C320. The President reiterated his support for tax credits to expand the use of hybrid cars and renewable energy sources as part of the President’s National Energy Policy.

Fritz, from Washington, DC writes:
Dear Secretary Bodman, How's the new job going so far? My other question is: is the DOE working at all with the PentagonDOD on finding a way to use American produced biodiesel for our tanks, planes, support vehicles, etc?

Thank you for your service to our president and our country.

Samuel Bodman
The job is going well, thanks. It's an honor to be part of the President's team as we work to address the energy challenges facing our nation and the world. One of the priorities of the President's National Energy Policy is reducing our dependence on foreign oil -- and the vast majority of our oil is used for transportation fuels like gasoline. The government is working on a number of fronts with research universities and private corporations to devise new ways to use our traditional motor fuels more efficiently, as well as develop new sources like biodiesel and ethanol. In addition, we are pursuing the development of hydrogen fuels that need no foreign oil and produce no pollution. These new fuels would help our entire economy -- not just the military -- achieve greater efficiency and energy security while lowering pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Mike, from West Palm Beach writes:
As the secretary of energy, what is your main job?

Samuel Bodman
The Energy Secretary has a broad set of responsibilities in addition to helping ensure a stable, affordable and secure supply of energy for our growing economy. That includes the development of new sources of energy, such as hydrogen fuel and agricultural-based fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. But the Department of Energy is also charged with helping ensure our national defense -- particularly through the stewardship of our nuclear weapons stockpile and through supplying the nuclear propulsion systems for the modern Navy. In addition, the Department has a major role to play in scientific research. Through our system of National Laboratories, the Department of Energy is the largest sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences -- which has led to major advances in medicine, energy production, environmental science, supercomputing, biology and new areas such as nanoscience. Over the past few decades, work involving the DOE's National Labs has resulted in 80 Nobel Prizes -- an amazing testament, I think, to the quality of research being done.

Scott, from Whitmore Lake, MI writes:
Given the obvious lack of support from many of the American people, why would your administration continue to push the initiative of oil exploration in the ANWR? Isn't this supposed to a be government "by the PEOPLE and for the PEOPLE"

Samuel Bodman
Exploring for oil and gas in a very small corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been supported by bipartisan majorities in Congress for years, but a small group of opponents has blocked it. In fact, Congress approved a plan back in 1995 for exploration there, but it was vetoed by President Clinton. Had that veto not happened, we would likely be getting up to 1 million barrels of oil per day from ANWR; that's more than half the amount we currently import from Saudi Arabia. In addition, advances in oil-exploration technology now allow production on much smaller tracts of land than ever before, with much less environmental impact. To reach the oil in ANWR would require drilling on an area covering about 2,000 acres -- about the size of a mid-size city airport. That's compared to the total size of ANWR of 19 million acres -- about the size of the state of South Carolina. In addition, the area chosen for exploration, which was set aside for this purpose back when the reservation was established, is near the edge of the preserve, not far from the existing oilfields of Prudhoe Bay.

Thank you for your great questions for Secretary Bodman today. He enjoyed participating and looks forward to hosting another session of "Ask the White House" in the near future.