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Bush and Cabinet members hit the road with energy plan

Associated Press
Published February 19, 2006

WASHINGTON - Record-high gasoline prices have dropped, yet there are fears another surge is around the corner. Larger heating bills this winter are still socking it to American wallets.

Amid those anxieties, President Bush is making it "energy week" in his administration, and he and top Cabinet officials plan to crisscross the country to tout a package of energy initiatives highlighted in last month's State of the Union address.

With the renewed focus on an issue of top concern to Americans, they hope to keep high energy costs from dampening consumer enthusiasm and the country's economic revival - and to prevent Democrats from using it as a weapon in this fall's congressional elections.

"The best way to meet our growing energy needs is through advances in technology," Bush said Saturday in his radio address. "We will pursue promising technologies that will transform how we power our vehicles, businesses and homes - so we can reduce our nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy."

One of Bush's proposals would expand research into smaller, longer-lasting batteries for electric-gas hybrid cars, including plug-ins. The president will highlight that initiative with a visit Monday to the battery center at Milwaukee-based auto-parts supplier Johnson Controls Inc.

Proposed increased investment in the development of clean electric power sources are the focus of a stop later that day at a solar panel plant in suburban Detroit. The United Solar Ovonic plant in Auburn Hills, Mich., plans to dramatically increase production capacity.

Its parent company, Energy Conversion Devices Inc., is working on hydrogen fuel cells to power cars - a technology Bush often touts and has proposed supporting with additional federal research dollars but that most experts say will not be ready for two or three decades.

On Tuesday, with a stop at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., the president highlights his proposals to speed the development of biofuels such as "cellulosic" ethanol made from wood chips or sawgrass.

Six Cabinet officers are scheduled to appear at more than two dozen energy-related events in more than a dozen states over the week.

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:10:11]

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