WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will commit $2 billion over the next three years to a new international fund to promote clean energy technologies and fight climate change, President George W. Bush told Congress on Monday in his annual State of the Union speech.
“Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources,” Bush said.
He said the United States is committed to working with major economies and the United Nations to complete an international agreement that “has the potential to slow, stop and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.”
“This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride,” Bush said. “The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change.”
Delegates from the biggest greenhouse gas-polluting countries will meet this week in Hawaii to spur U.N. negotiations for an international climate agreement by 2009 that would replace the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012.
The Bush administration rejects the Kyoto Protocol, saying it unfairly exempts developing countries from cutting emissions and could hurt the U.S. economy. Bush favors voluntary measures and “aspirational goals” to limit climate change.
In response to Bush’s speech, environmental groups called the president’s voluntary efforts to curb global warming an old approach that would not work.
“In the fight against global warming, the science is clear: the path to avoid catastrophic climate change starts with mandatory limits on global warming pollution ... a voluntary approach adds up to lots of rhetoric and little actual change,” said the National Wildlife Federation.
On energy issues, Bush once again called for the United States to cut its dependence on oil, which this month hit a record $100.09 a barrel, by developing new sources of energy.
“To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil,” Bush said.
He said the United States needs to generate more of its electricity from clean coal, solar and wind energy and nuclear power. He also called for more investment in developing advanced batteries and renewable fuels that will run future cars and trucks.
The National Mining Association welcomed Bush’s call for more clean energy use, particularly cleaner-burning coal.
“Providing greater clean power and energy security for U.S. businesses and families is not a partisan political objective, but one both parties must pursue to meet the environmental and energy supply challenges that lie ahead,” the group said.
Bush is not giving up on oil altogether. The White House said the administration wants Congress to pass legislation that opens to drilling more offshore U.S. waters and parts of Alaska where energy exploration is now banned.
Bush also wants Congress to approve doubling the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which can now hold about 727 million barrels of emergency oil supplies at four underground storage sites in Texas and Louisiana.
Unlike last year’s State of the Union message, there was little in Bush’s speech this year calling for a major overhaul of U.S. energy policy.
That is because Congress passed a comprehensive energy bill that Bush signed into law in December. It increases vehicle fuel efficiency for the first time in over three decades, significantly boosts ethanol use, makes appliances more energy efficient and phases out the traditional light bulb.
Reporting by Tom Doggett; editing by John O'Callaghan