President Bush answers questions on ethanol, fuel efficiency and gas tax
"Q I have a transportation question for you -- Raymond Burns with the Rogers-Lowell Chamber. For business to continue to grow in Northwest Arkansas we're going to have to help with our transportation infrastructure. (Applause.) Apparently, that's our number-one issue. Given that we collect taxes on gasoline by the gallon, and fuel efficiency means there will be less taxes collected, going forward, what will the priority for transportation help be, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: The -- step one, in order to make sure that that which we collect gets spent equitably, is to make sure that the committees in the House and Senate that appropriate the monies don't take a lot of the money as special projects. In other words, what happens is, is that the Public Works Committee is the largest committee in the House -- are you on Public Works, Boozeman? Yes. (Laughter.) It sounds like I better be diplomatic in the answer. (Laughter.) So what happens is these members say, okay, I want this for my district, I want this for my district, I want this for my district, so they get a unanimous vote out of the committee -- was it unanimous last time? Yes, that's what I thought.
And then so the money isn't equitably distributed. So step one is to make sure that the committees do their jobs the right way. Step two is to give states flexibility so that if they so choose -- which I think exists today -- that if you decide to have a highway for truckers paid for by fees, that you're encouraged to do so.
I mean, you're right, fuel efficiency is going to make it harder to collect gasoline taxes. Therefore, the next question is, what's the next best user fee. Gasoline tax is a user fee. Is there a better way to collect money, a better user fee system? And one thing I think is that if you've got a freeway, you ought to be able to parallel that freeway with a way to collect user fees, a toll way, and so people have a choice. You know, a trucker, if he's interested in moving through Northwest Arkansas in expedition [sic] fashion will pay a little extra money to be able to do so.
My attitude is, so long as the taxpayer has got a free alternative, I don't see why it makes -- why it's a problem to have the paying option available as a way to collect user fees to modernize the highway system. And so that's an idea for you right there."
Go below the fold to see Bush's response on ethanol.
[Source: The White House]
Bush says he's "guilty" of promoting ethanol and said he wants to move to "cellulostic" ethanol. The White House transcripts actually includes Bush's mispronunciation of the word. Here is the full quote:
"Q Mr. President, I'm a third-generation dairy farmer. We milk 300 cows out west of town. And we're very concerned with immigration and ag jobs, and also the economic impact that the ethanol -- the government subsidy on ethanol production has had on feed costs. And agriculture is still number one in Arkansas, even with all this fantastic economic growth that we've got in this area. Could you please comment, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I will. First of all, I'm guilty on promoting ethanol. And the reason is, is because I think it's in our interests to diversify away from oil. And the reason why it's -- I know that's hard for a Texan to say. But the reason why we've got to diversify away from oil is that we end up with dependency on oil from certain parts of the world where people don't particularly like us. And secondly, given the globalization of the world today, and disruption of oil, you know, in one part of the world is going to cause the price of your gasoline to go up. And so, I promoted ethanol, and still believe it's important for the future.
I'm also promoting research that will enable us to make ethanol out of something other than corn, because I fully understand the constraints on corn. I mean, I hear it everywhere I go that the people like yourself who rely upon reasonable feed prices know full well that demand for corn as a result of the demand for ethanol going up is costing your -- making it harder for you to make a living. One of these days we're going to be able to make ethanol out of wood chips or switchgrass. It's called cellulostic [sic] ethanol. And we're spending a lot of money to develop the technologies that will enable us to use something other than corn."
What else was discussed? Bush also mentioned his ethanol plan in a question about the environment too. Bush said, "The less oil we use, the better stewards of the environment we will be. So that's why I'm a big promoter of ethanol and I've set a mandatory goal for the country of reducing our gasoline usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years."
Bush also said cars are one of three basic aspects to the environment. Here is that quote; "That's why -- here, the way I'll do this is there's three basic aspects to the environment: One is how we generate electricity; two is how we drive our cars; and three is how we build our buildings."
i think we know what he means.
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