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Special Event

President Bush Speaks About Energy Policy

Aired March 19, 2001 - 4:50 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We turn to the president of the United States, Mr. Bush, speaking about energy policy and what he has learned from the Energy Commission.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... assembled senior members of the Cabinet to analyze the situation and to come up with recommendations.

It is clear, from the first analysis, that demand for energy in the United States is increasing, much more so than production is. And as a result, we're finding, in certain parts of the country, that we're short on energy. And this administration is concerned about it. And we will make a recommendation to the country as how to proceed.

But one thing is for certain, there are no short-term fixes; that the solution for our energy shortage requires long-term thinking and a plan that we'll implement that will take time to bring to fruition. And it not only includes good conservation, but as well exploration for oil and gas and coal and development of energy sources that exist within in our 50 states.

It also requires good foreign policy. And that's in order to increase the amount of energy available for American consumers, we've got to work closely with our neighbors to the north and the south, which we will do.

And so, Mr. Vice President, thank you. You've done good work and we look forward to reporting to the nation when the report is final.

QUESTION: Mr. President, during the campaign you said that you'd be able to work with our allies in OPEC to get them to restrain prices. Given what happened over the weekend, what went wrong? Do you consider it a direct rebuff to your administration's entreaties? And what are you going to do about it?

BUSH: The OPEC nations are responding to decreased demand. World demand, they think, is going to decrease and therefore they've responded with a million-barrel cut. The piece of good news in the decision was that the Saudi minister made it clear that he and his friends would not allow the price of crude oil to exceed $28 a barrel. That's very comforting to the American consumer and I appreciate that gesture. I thought that was a very strong statement of understanding that high prices of crude oil will affect our economy.

Now having said that, it's important for American consumers to understand that if we have a price spike in refined product, it's not going to be because of the price of crude oil being $25 or $26 a barrel, it's going to be because we don't have enough refining capacity.

We're not generating enough product. And that's another issue that we'll be dealing with, is how to make sure we can get refined product to our consumers.

QUESTION: So this cut in production won't have an impact on gasoline prices this summer?

BUSH: We don't think so. We think that the major impact on gasoline prices, if they go up, is a result of not generating enough supply, enough refined product to meet the demand of U.S. drivers.

And we haven't built a refinery in 25 years in America. We're not generating enough gasoline to meet demands. It's the same as natural gas, we're not exploring for enough natural gas to meet demand. We're not building enough power-generating plants to meet demand, and we're beginning to pay the price. And America has got to understand that energy is an issue and we're going to deal with it.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. President, you said no short-term fixes, but are you considering or would you consider short-term options in case there are shortages this summer, such as tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

BUSH: We've been through that before, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is meant for a national emergency when it comes to war. There are some things we can do.

We can work with California at the governor's request to expedite permitting. And Administrator Whitman has done an excellent job of working with California to encourage and enable California to more speedily build plants.

The energy crisis we're in is a supply-and-demand issue, and we need to reduce demand and increase supply. And the best public policy is to understand that, and that's what we're going to do.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well, we had a good discussion. And I did, I had a very good discussion with Vicente Fox. And Secretary Abraham had a very good discussion with his counterpart from Mexico.

Mexico has to make the decision as to whether or not they will be willing to allow foreign capital to explore for oil and gas in their country. That's the Mexican decision to make.

I encouraged the president to begin allowing foreign capital to explore for natural gas in Mexico. That would be to our benefit. Gas is hemispheric. An mcf of gas found in Mexico is beneficial to the United States and Canada even though it's found in Mexico.

And the vice president and I have had discussions with Prime Minister Chretien about exploration for natural gas. And a good energy policy is one that understands we've got energy in our hemisphere and how best to explore for it and transport it to markets.

And so, you bet, we'll continue discussions with Mexico as well as Canada.

STAFF: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... this afternoon, they emerged from the meeting and were very highly complimentary of you and your faith-based plan. Were you encouraged about the meeting that you had with them as much as they were? And how crucial is their support to your faith-based initiatives?

BUSH: Well, the black ministers with whom I met are very crucial for helping change the neighborhoods and communities in which they live. Many of those preachers or bishops over churches have got great programs that change peoples' hearts and provide hope in neighborhoods where there is no hope.

And so, I view them not as agents of politics, I view them as agents of change. And they are supportive of our efforts to empower people to be able to make choices as to where to find services and help. And I am supportive of their efforts to provide help where help is needed. And I really appreciate them coming. So I was very encouraged by the meeting.

STAFF: Thank you.

CHEN: Energy the big topic on the mind of the White House today. Of course, OPEC announcing that it was cutting back on production. Rolling blackouts announced again today in California, first time since January on that. Energy on a lot of minds today, and on Mr. Bush's mind as he met with his policy advisers on energy policy.

Joining us now from the White House lawn is CNN's Major Garrett, our White House correspondent -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Very quickly here, the administration trying to make sure the American people are aware that it's trying to deal with this crisis. This meeting was really called just as a time to sort of assess where we are, where the country is.

No specific proposals, but what the White House wants to tell the American public is it's aware of the problem, it's trying to address it, but as the president said, no short-term fixes, and the OPEC situation is not going to be driving up gasoline prices. That's a refinery problem, something the president said he inherited. The main message from the White House is this is a mess we've inherited, no short-term solutions, we're trying to deal with it. That's the message they're trying to convey.

CHEN: All right, CNN's Major Garrett for us at the White House today.

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