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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
August 8, 2005

Samuel Bodman
I was honored to be with President Bush in New Mexico today as he signed the nation's first comprehensive energy legislation in more than a decade. Four years ago, the President called upon Congress to craft a bill that would aim to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase our domestic supply of energy, enhance energy efficiency, and strengthen our nation's energy infrastructure. After much hard work and negotiation, the House and Senate recently passed an energy bill with broad bipartisan support. Today, with the President's signature, this legislation becomes law.

I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about this, or about energy policy in general.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Secretary Bodman: In brief what are some of the short term parts of the Energy Bill and the long term parts? What kind of time fame are talking?

Thank You

Samuel Bodman
Thanks. This is a good question to kick things off. There are many measures in the bill for increasing America’s energy security, but unfortunately there are no “quick fixes” to the energy challenges before us, as much as I wish there were. There are parts of the bill that will come online in the next few months, including tax credits for consumers who install energy-saving windows and insulation, solar-powered water heaters, or energy efficient air conditioners or furnaces in their homes; as well as tax credits for consumers who purchase hybrid gasoline-electric cars.

Also in the relatively near-term – meaning the next few years – improving electricity transmission reliability standards should help prevent future blackouts. And enhancing the federal government’s role in siting liquefied natural gas terminals could help ease the tight market in natural gas.

In the medium time range, the bill promotes the greater use of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which we expect can play a part in reducing our dependence on imported petroleum.

Further down the road, the bill stimulates the development of new technology to generate clean, affordable energy. These technologies include clean coal plants, hydrogen fuel cells, and safe, emissions-free nuclear power.

Joshua, from Washington, DC writes:
Why are we changing the months for day light savings time? Thank you

Samuel Bodman
Good question, Joshua. The provision in the energy bill to add an extra month to daylight saving time – three weeks in March, an extra one in November – was included at the behest of Congress. Supporters have claimed the extra hour of sunshine will dramatically cut down on oil consumption. Our Administration was concerned that the change might cause confusion in a variety of industries, such as the aviation, trucking and software industries. The newly extended daylight saving time goes into effect in March 2007, and we will be working to ensure that when the extension goes into effect, there won’t be any unintended consequences.

longhua, from chongqing writes:
what is the policy about energy cooperation with P.R. China?

Samuel Bodman
China and the U.S. both face very similar challenges with respect to energy in the coming decades. Our economies are expected to continue growing, and that means a growing demand for energy. Moreover, we also share concerns about the environmental effects of energy use. Because of these various shared energy challenges, the Department of Energy has reached out to the Chinese government on ways we can work together to solve our energy problems. We recently hosted Chinese government and industry officials at our Department as part of the U.S-China Energy Policy Dialogue. Discussions ranged from sharing energy efficiency technology to next-generation nuclear power know-how to clean-coal technology. We are confident that by communicating information, sharing research, and pooling resources, our two nations can benefit in ways that each one, acting alone, could not.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
Have we considered using solar power?

Samuel Bodman
We’ve done more than consider it. Solar is an important part of our overall emphasis on increasing the use of renewable energy sources, including wind, hydro, and biomass energy. To generate large amounts of cost-effective electricity from solar energy, we need to improve technology for solar cells, and the Department of Energy is making a significant investment in that. This is something that I personally am quite enthusiastic about. Not long ago I visited a solar cell manufacturing facility in Michigan, run by a company called Uni-Solar. In partnership with DOE, this company and others are really pushing the envelope to make solar energy technology serve a greater portion of our energy needs.

Also, as I mentioned, the energy bill signed by the President, contains important tax incentives for homeowners to make greater use of solar power, including up to $2,000 for the installation of solar-powered hot-water systems.

Ryan, from New Hampshire writes:
Hello Mr. Bodman, I was just wondering when the gas prices will go down? Also, I heard Mr. President talking about the oil in Alaska that we will use. When would that be finished. On that same day I aslo heard him say that we will be building a new nueclearhydrogen power plant. (I forgot which.) When will those be done. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. Bye.

Thanks Again, Ryan

Samuel Bodman
Unfortunately, Ryan, there is no magic bullet that will bring down gasoline prices. President Bush is concerned about the impact of high gas prices for working Americans, and let me assure you that if the President had a magic wand that could lower prices, he would do it! The high prices we’ve been experiencing have been symptoms of our country’s larger energy problems. These problems – from inadequate infrastructure and refining capacity to a regulatory structure that has discouraged needed investment – have been a long time in the making. They will take some time to get sorted out. And while the Energy bill that President Bush signed today can’t bring the price you pay at the pump down overnight, it puts us on a path to address the underlying problems that confront our energy sector.

As for Alaskan oil, I assume you are referring to the oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. The Bush Administration supports the idea of opening a limited area of ANWR to environmentally responsible oil exploration. This issue, however, was not part of the comprehensive energy bill President Bush signed today, though we expect Congress to take it up in the coming months. Assuming Congress acts (and bipartisan majorities in both houses appear to support opening ANWR), it would still be several years before large-scale production could occur.

Finally, the President has made a big push for the resurgence of nuclear power--which is the only energy source we currently have that can produce large quantities of electricity with no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Yet no nuclear power plant has been built in the U.S. in several decades. If we are going to meet our economy’s growing need for electricity, however, we are going to need nuclear power to play a big role. That is why we worked with Congress for critical energy bill provisions to support our stated goal of constructing new nuclear power plants.

Rick, from Worcester, Mass writes:
Good day Sir,I was curious to know if nuclear power plants that have been deactivated could be brought up to operational staus in an effort to lessen our dependance on fossil fuel fired plants. I have always been a supporter of nuclear power and would like to see more power derived from this technology. Thank you.

Samuel Bodman
I, like President Bush share your enthusiasm for nuclear power. As I mentioned, nuclear power is the only large-scale, safe and emissions-free source of power currently available. The Energy Bill signed by President Bush today puts in place policies that will help make new nuclear power generation a reality. As for deactivated nuclear plants, they are in various stages in the decommissioning process: most are decontaminated, some are partially dismantled, and a number of them have been dismantled to the point where it is not technically feasible to bring the plant back to an operational state. For those where it is technically feasible to bring back the plant to an operational state, however, it just is not economical to do so.

James, from El Paso, Texas writes:
Mr. Secretary,Hydrogen fuel cells are the energy source of the future. What criteria are being used to select wisely researchers to move us forward in this direction? Thank you.

Samuel Bodman
The President announced a very ambitious hydrogen fuel cell research program in his 2003 State of the Union address to Congress. Since then we have moved forward with a large-scale international consortium called the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy. This group of 16 countries and the European Commission is working in cooperation on research for fuel cell high-temperature membranes, hydrogen storage materials, and renewable energy production. The IPHE allows all the nations interested in hydrogen to pool resources, to have our scientists and engineers share knowledge, and to lay important pre-competitive groundwork, like developing interoperable codes and standards.

Kathy, from Seattle writes:
Despite oil prices at record highs, our oil companies are producing less oil this year than last, with some major oil companies producing less oil each year for years now. Does the energy bill do enough to reduce our dependence on oil, and will we be able to avoid an energy crisis?

Samuel Bodman
Moving away from a petroleum-based transportation sector--and thus dramatically reducing our dependence on imported energy--is one President Bush’s most important energy goals. We are very committed to moving the United States into the hydrogen economy. In addition to the international efforts I just mentioned, our Department is working aggressively to implement the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, a $1.2 billion commitment to move hydrogen fuel cell technology from the laboratory to the showroom.

John, from Texas writes:
Is it true we're going to run out of oil in 50 years?

Samuel Bodman
While the world still has plenty of oil, it’s a fact that fossil fuels are finite resources that will not last forever. And while we are not in danger of running out in the near term, oil is becoming more difficult to find and produce, especially as demand for energy continues to climb. That is why energy diversity is a key element of the President’s National Energy Policy. We need a variety of energy sources as well as suppliers. These diverse sources include hydrogen, as I just mentioned, as well as biofuels and ethanol for transportation. And for the long-term, we also are looking at the potential of sources like nuclear fusion.

jonah, from san diego writes:
When exactly is the president supposed to sign the energy bill and what exactly will this bill do to help biodiesel in the near future?

Samuel Bodman
The President just signed the bill today, and was very happy to do. As to the second part of your question, President Bush has called biodiesel “one of our nation’s most promising alternative fuel sources.” That is why he and I are very pleased that the bill contains consumer tax incentives to encourage the greater use of biodiesel as an alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuel. The bill also includes a requirement for the use of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels (like biodiesel and ethanol) annually by 2012.

Adam, from Jackson, NJ writes:
Do the tax break incentives in the energy plan help to curb the cost of future hybrid car maintenance (ie replacing the battery pack in 3-5 years)?

Samuel Bodman
My understanding of the way Congress finalized this provision is that you get the credit when you buy or lease the vehicle. The amount of the credit is intended to provide the taxpayer a benefit assuming the life of the vehicle, and in some instances any portion of the credit not able to be used during the initial year may be carried forward.

samuel writes:
what's your opinon about the development of clean coal technology(CCT) in the near future

Samuel Bodman
It is absolutely critical to our energy and environmental security. The U.S. has 250 years worth of proven coal reserves. But burning coal entails serious environmental considerations. We worked with Congress to fully authorize DOE’s clean coal technology program in the energy bill the President signed today. Pursuing technologies such as carbon sequestration (where we literally capture greenhouse gases and keep them from entering the atmosphere) will go a long way toward allowing the continued use of coal in this country.

Daniel, from Great Barrington, MA writes:
Hi Secretary Bodman. Does the energy bill expand research for alternative fuel? I ask this because oil and natural gas is not going to last forever. Thanks.

Samuel Bodman
The bill encourages greater use of alternative fuels through various tax incentives. In addition, the Department of Energy is making significant investments--as I’ve mentioned--in research to develop and expand renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy; as well as alternative transportation options such as hydrogen fuel cells and ethanol.

Samuel Bodman
Thank you for all of these interesting questions. It is great to see how much interest there is in our nation's energy policies. I hope I was able to offer satisfactory answers to all your questions.