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Bush urges more refineries, nuclear plants

Speaking to a Small Business Administration conference, Bush stressed that he could not just lower soaring gas prices.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Comparing U.S. dependence on overseas oil to a "foreign tax on the American people," President Bush on Wednesday proposed a series of energy initiatives, including more oil refineries and nuclear plants, to combat the problem.

In a speech to a Small Business Administration conference in Washington, Bush announced five proposals focusing on technology to ensure affordable and reliable supplies of energy.

His second energy speech in a week comes as gas prices soar ahead of the summer driving season.

"Technology is allowing us to better use our existing energy resources," Bush said. "And in the years ahead, technology will allow us to create entirely new sources of energy in ways earlier generations could never dream."

He said the United States must develop policies to make it less dependent on oil and other fossil fuels but stressed that he could not just lower soaring gas prices.

"Our dependence on foreign energy is like a foreign tax on the American people. It is a tax our citizens pay every day in higher gasoline prices and higher costs to heat and cool their homes. It's a tax on jobs and a tax that is increasing every year," Bush said.

"The problem is clear; the problem did not develop overnight. It is not going to be fixed overnight."

The president discussed a plan to encourage building oil refineries on former military sites. Administration officials said Bush will ask federal agencies to work with states and local communities to try to identify ways for refinery expansion.

He also called on the Department of Energy to work with Congress to reduce uncertainty in the licensing process of nuclear power plants.

"A secure energy future for America must include more nuclear power," Bush said.

The Bush administration said that despite a newer licensing process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, experiences in the 1970s and 1980s have left uncertainty among potential investors about their ability to negotiate the new system.

The president proposed "risk insurance" to mitigate the cost of possible delays in the licensing of new reactors.

Administration officials said they were not prepared yet to discuss how much that insurance might cost.

Other items on the Bush agenda included a call to Congress to grant federal authority (via the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) over the location of new liquefied natural gas terminals in an effort to increase the supply of natural gas and reduce prices.

Additionally, the president called for expanding his existing tax credit proposal, which currently applies to hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, to include those using new clean diesel technology.

Bush also touched on expanded international cooperation in cleaner and more efficient energy technologies.

The House of Representatives recently passed an energy bill, but the Senate has yet to do so. Bush urged the Senate to pass energy legislation and to have a bill on his desk before the August recess.

CNN's Catherine Berger and Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.

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