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Bush touts conservation while pushing energy plan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an effort to deflect criticism that the White House has not focused enough attention on conservation, President Bush announced Thursday a series of steps to conserve energy.

His new conservation efforts include federal grants of $87.5 million to accelerate research of more fuel-efficient technology for cars and buildings, such as fuel cells for automobiles.

Bush made his announcement at the Department of Energy after touring an exhibit of energy-efficient cars. Appearing with Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, the president said the grants also will help speed development of advanced engines, hydro technology and efficient consumer appliances.

California's Power Crisis  

"My government is committed to this proposition," Bush said. "Our job is to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes all across America. That not only means reasonable, sound tax policy, that means putting the federal government squarely on the side of innovation."

New fuel-cell technology could produce automobiles that run far more efficiently than current models. Several concept cars from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were flown to Washington for Bush's visit.

Bush said the development of such energy-efficient technologies, along with the search for new sources of energy, should be part of a broad national energy strategy.

The president said he will sign an executive order directing all federal agencies to purchase appliances meeting a one-watt standard for excess energy. This would require the devices to use no more than one watt of energy when they are on standby, or plugged into an outlet but turned off.

He said the federal government would take a leading role in combating what he called "vampires" -- devices such as cell phone chargers, computers or fax machines -- that draw excess energy when plugged in but not in use.

Bush called for the one-watt standard to be a qualification for the Energy Star designation, the government's label for energy-efficient products, as a way to promote the efficient use of technology to consumers.

If the entire country used such energy-saving appliances, the president said, the country would save 52 billion kilowatt hours of power a year, the equivalent of 26 average-size power plants.

The president also declared his support for alleviating the power problems in California, praising the opening Wednesday of a new major power plant in the state.

"We've reduced the regulatory burdens and hurdles to encourage the increase of supply into a state into which no power plant had been built for over a decade," Bush said.

Bush planned to meet Thursday afternoon with a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers to urge Congress to "move and move quickly" to pass energy legislation, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.

Fleischer said the president will call on lawmakers to take steps to make sure the United States is less dependent on foreign oil and the country does not face additional energy crises. Bush will press lawmakers to act this summer and "not be asleep at the wheel," Fleischer added.

Bush this week also will direct the White House to do its part to conserve energy, ordering all employees to take steps such as making sure their computers are turned off when they leave work, Fleischer said. The administration is also installing motion-detector switches in conference rooms that will automatically shut off lights when no one is inside.

New air conditioner "chillers," which use less energy, have already been installed on top of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), Fleischer said. The chillers were pushed by former President Bush and formalized during the Clinton administration, but were not installed until this year.

Fleischer said the president will ask Congress for money to take other steps, such as replacing the 400 window air conditioners in EEOB, and installing motion-detection light switches in all rooms of the White House.

CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report

• Department of Energy
• California Energy Commission Homepage

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