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Special Event

George W. Bush Participates in Chat Session With America Online Subscribers

Aired February 25, 2000 - 1:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush flew to Virginia today. He's seeking votes in next week's primary there. Right now, he's participating in a computer chat session with America Online subscribers. He's taking some questions from the audience also, and the current topic happens to be Social Security. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... the military to keep the peace. And, by the way, to reconfigure the military for the long time coming so we can keep the peace more certain 30 years from now. I want to modernize Social Security and Medicare, and I want to pass my economic -- I mean my education agenda. That's what I want to do.

Now, I know there's a lot of other issues, and we'll talk hours on issues, but in terms of earning and spending capital, a president must be able to stand up and say, here's what the people heard. Now, let's get it done, and one of those key issues is Social Security, and that's the framework for an agreement I just laid out.

QUESTION: We have an online question that's relevant to your old job in the oil business. Real Eskew (ph) -- that's the name of the AOL member -- asks: Do you think that you could speak to the crisis in trucking due to heightened fuel costs. As president, how would you deal with this situation?

BUSH: Yes, the short-term solution for high fuel costs is to convince friendly nations and OPEC to increase the supply of crude oil. The price of diesel or the price of gasoline is tied directly to the price of crude oil. OPEC has gotten supply and demand in balance, and that's why they've been able to run the price up.

The United States -- the president of the United States also earns capital, by the way. There's domestic capital and foreign policy capital, and the president ought to spend it by telling friendly nations and OPEC, we expect you to increase the supply of crude. That is the quickest way to make sure the price of crude oil drops, and therefore, correspondingly, the price of diesel and/or gasoline drops as well. And the argument is simple: If you destroy our market, you hurt yourself. If you choke the price -- if you run the price of crude oil up to the point -- or crude oil products up to the point where it causes economic -- an economic downturn in America, you hurt yourself.

But this issue under -- you know, explains the -- the national security risk we have by dependency upon OPEC. It shows how dependent we are on overseas sources of crude oil, which means we better be thinking about how to, one, increase supplies our own self -- that's why I believe we ought to use our technologies, and I believe we can safely explore in Anwar (ph), which is in the northern reaches of Alaska -- but we also want to encourage the use of natural gas. Natural gas is hemispheric in nature, it's not subject to the whims of -- the pricing is not subject to the whims of OPEC, it is clean to burn, it is plentiful in supply. So that's one alternative source.

I believe we ought to use research and development dollars to find out if we can't, for example, convert biomass to fuels. After all, we grow it. Would it be helpful if we could grow enough to be able to maybe fuel our automobiles, such as the use of ethanol is a good example of biomass fuels. And then, plus, we've got to -- the car manufacturers got to continue to adjust to the marketplace to encourage better fuel economy cars.

So this issue today is -- you know, people talk about the strategic petroleum reserve. It is not a solution to getting the price of crude oil down. The strategic petroleum reserve is there in case there's a cutoff of crude oil, in case there is a national emergency in times of war. The best way to get the price down is for people to open up -- is to convince the people who've got control of the supply to open up their spigots.

QUESTION: This area in northern Virginia is...

WATERS: George Bush in Virginia, preparing voters for next week's primary there in which it's becoming an increasingly-tighter race between Mr. Bush and John McCain for the delegates there. "The New York Times" today is reporting that Bush's once-massive campaign treasury is dwindling. The newspaper says that after spending a record $60 million, Mr. Bush has only about $10 million left in his war chest. That's a million or two more than his rival, John McCain. McCain will campaign in California later today.

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