President touts alternative fuels, mileage standards in visit to KC area
Claycomo, Mo. President Bush on Tuesday linked U.S. security with his push for alternative fuel vehicles and higher mileage standards as he toured two Kansas City-area auto plants.
"When you're making one of these cars, you're helping the national security of the country," Bush told approximately 300 auto workers.
Bush's endorsement of hybrids was well-received by auto workers, but some disagreed with the president's leadership.
"Overall, I don't think he has done a good job," said Rueben Johnson, of Independence, Mo. The Sept. 11 attacks "put everything in a spiral, but from there he could've handled things differently."
Bush, in what he described as "Car Day," took quick tours of the production lines of gasoline-electric vehicles at two plants: General Motors Corp. in Fairfax, Kan., and Ford Motor Co. in Claycomo.
At the GM plant, Bush examined a hybrid engine that will be used for the Saturn Aura, which will be marketed soon.
At the Ford plant, Bush was guided by a group that included Alan Mulally, Ford's CEO and president who grew up in Lawrence and graduated from Lawrence High School and Kansas University.
Speaking to workers in Claycomo, Bush said using alternative fuels, such as ethanol made from corn, would reduce U.S. dependence on oil that often comes from areas vulnerable to terrorism.
"The more we are dependent on oil from somewhere else, the more we are vulnerable to national security issues," he said.
Plus, he added, "I'd rather be paying American farmers," for corn or other fuel products, "than people overseas."
Bush has said he would like to reduce gasoline use by 20 percent in 10 years, and replace that with alternative fuels and higher car-efficiency standards.
Car makers have touted advances in hybrids but have resisted Bush's call for a 4 percent annual increase in the federal mileage requirement to reach 34 miles per gallon by 2017.
Bush didn't speak directly about the war in Iraq, but emphasized that terrorists would like to "disrupt oil networks."
And he made no mention of the increasing controversy surrounding the alleged political firings of U.S. attorneys. Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, who is in the middle of that controversy, traveled with Bush. Rove spoke with some plant workers and posed for photos with them.
Bush added that his energy plan included doubling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, developing clean-coal technologies, increasing wind energy and exploring for more oil in the United States.
Bush urged Democrats to join him in trying to reduce U.S. oil imports, which amount to approximately 60 percent of the oil consumed in the nation.
"This is the kind of thing where we should be able to come together for the good of the country," he said.
Bush gave an 18-minute speech to workers, but several rows of seats remained empty or were removed prior to his talk.
"As an auto worker, I don't believe the Republican Party has done a very good job of trying to keep American jobs here," said Don Stettnisch, who lives near the Claycomo plant and listened to the president's speech.
"They keep making it too easy for the companies to take them overseas," he said.
Tom Clear, of Lee's Summit, said Bush was "doing OK." As far as his commitment to hybrid vehicles, "We'll just see what comes down the road," he said.
Jeff Bohlmeyer, of Liberty, said Bush's policies were hurting the country.
"We need to definitely have less dependence on foreign oil, but part of the problem with the price of oil right now are his policies. The war in the Middle East and the government buying any available oil doesn't help the price of oil," Bohlmeyer said.
Andrew Adkins, of Claycomo, said he was glad Bush visited the plant to see what kind of work was done, but that he wasn't impressed with Bush.
"More was done economically with President Clinton," he said.