09 March 2005
White House Daily Briefing, March 9
Japan, International Women's Day, energy
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press March 9 aboard Air Force One en route to Columbus, Ohio.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS GAGGLE WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN
Aboard Air Force One En Route Columbus, Ohio
12:38 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. Let me begin with going over the President's day. This morning the President spoke with Prime Minister Koizumi. They had a good discussion about a range of issues, including the freedom agenda, North Korea, the Middle East peace process, Iraq, and beef exports. And the call was about 15 minutes in length.
Then the President had his usual briefings. He had the meeting with President Basescu, and the two leaders spoke at the end of that meeting, and took some questions. So you all have a transcript of that.
And when we arrive in Columbus, the President is -- and I'm going to come back to this in a minute, and let somebody else talk to you about the tour we're going to take of the Battelle Memorial Institute. Following that, we'll go to the Veterans Memorial, where the President will make remarks on energy policy. And I expect in his remarks he will talk about the importance of Congress acting on the comprehensive energy strategy that he has outlined. There are really four key areas of that: promoting conservation and energy efficiency, diversifying our energy supply, increasing domestic exploration and making sure we have a modernized electricity grid. I also expect the President to talk about the importance of acting on his Clear Skies legislation that we have proposed to reduce power plant emissions by 70 percent.
Then this afternoon, when he returns, the President has also got -- and this is stills at the top -- will participate in a brief meeting with the ministers of women's affairs from Afghanistan and Iraq. They were in town to participate in the International Women's Days events that were going on at the State Department yesterday that Mrs. Bush attended, as well. And they have been instrumental in making sure that women have been able to participate in elections and in the democratic societies emerging in those two countries. And so the President looks forward to that meeting, as well.
And with that, let me turn it over to -- I've got Jim Connaughton here, head of our Council on Environmental Quality, to give you a little bit of -- more color on the tour that the President will be taking when we get there. And then he'll take whatever questions, and I'll take whatever questions. He's still a little bit upset with me for taking Dana from his shop, but we're on talking terms again. (Laughter.)
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: Thanks, Scott. Today the President is going to do an energy technology tour at Battelle Memorial Institute, which is one of the nation's largest research and development institutes for doing especially energy technologies. A little bit about the lab. It manages or co-manages over 19,000 staff members, conducting $3 billion annually in research and development. The laboratories work with more than 800 federal, state and local government agencies to provide cost-effective science and technologies in a variety of areas -- national security, homeland defense, health and life sciences, and then today what we'll see is in energy and the environment.
The main theme of the tour is to understand how technology is making our energy system more secure, more affordable, more reliable and more environmentally protective. The President will see a series of different demonstrations and speak with the scientists who are actually leading and conducting the research. He'll see in particular five presentations: one on advanced nuclear energy, one on clean-coal technologies, one on electric grid reliability, another one on pipeline safety, and then preview some efficient appliances.
In addition to those five demonstrations, the President is going to preview a mock fuel cell laboratory where they are creating a fuel cell package intended for use in the Bradley A3 Fighting Vehicle. By using a fuel cell, the Department of Defense is going to be able to put that into the vehicle and enable silent watch applications. That's, "silent watch."
Q: What's that?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: It's where the military wants to run electronics and surveillance without producing the heat and exhaust of normal fuel use. So it's a stealth fighting vehicle, much like a stealth bomber. It has almost no signature that opponents would be able to detect. That's one of the great advantages of the fuel cell approach.
Let me just give you a little bit more on the specifics under each of these. In advanced nuclear energy, he's going to take a look at a prototype for the next-generation nuclear power plant that will not only produce electricity, but also produce hydrogen that has no emissions. He'll also talk about and view a demonstration on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, and that's a next-generation nuclear design that's highly effective.
In the area of clean coal, he'll take a look at this new advanced technology called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. That is the next step on the road to a zero-emission coal fired power plant that enables us also to capture and store CO2. As part of that, he's going to take a look at a vial of nano-materials that specifically absorb carbon dioxide. And the nano-materials in that vial contain as much surface area as the entire exterior surface area of the White House.
On electric grid reliability, he'll look at some advanced superconducting transmission technologies, and that's transmitting electricity over much thinner and smaller wires, as well as smart control systems that's going to help with the reliability of the grid, to prevent blackouts.
On pipeline safety, he'll look at corrosion-resistant material and sensors to minimize the effects of pipeline sabotage. So we'll be able to detect and prevent potential sabotage events. And then he'll also view what's called a "pig", which is a unit that they put inside of the pipeline to assure -- to monitor and assure its long and ongoing safety.
Finally, on the efficiency side, for appliances --
Q: So that's not a real pig, though.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: They call it a pig, but it's about the size of a pig. That's why they call it a pig. (Laughter.) No, it's all technology, all technology.
The President is going to get a presentation on our effort -- it's a DOE project with the lab -- to build an affordable zero-energy home. And by affordable, we're talking about a home that can be used in the context of Habitat for Humanity, less than $100,000 to build, as well as a super-efficient refrigerator that runs on the energy it takes to power just one 75 watt lightbulb, and then a new prototype for an efficient heat pump water heater, again, that could be broadly commercially applicable.
And I'll end there.
MR. McCLELLAN: Any questions for Jim?
Q: You know, you're under some criticism of not pursuing appliance standards fast enough at DOE. How do you connect what you're saying here to that criticism? I think there's some advocacy groups that are filing lawsuits, and there's some Democrats on the Hill that say there are a lot of appliance standards that are way behind schedule.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: DOE actually has moved forward with a number of appliance standards, and are in the middle of their process for setting new ones. The criticism that are leveled at appliance standards often focuses on the fact the appliance standard, when it's set, is always the second generation technology. The criticism is actually misguided, because by setting the standard at the second best technology, that's typically the most affordable technology, which means that more people will buy it and actually use it.
So from an environmental perspective, the way we set the standard is to promote the maximum purchase and use of the most effecient technology that will produce the environmental outcome we want. Typically, if you set it at the highest standard, few people buy it, and therefore you don't achieve your goal of actually having greater efficiency in the marketplace. And that plays out again and again. That's the way the standards work. And with the new standards coming up, you'll see the same philosophy applied. We want to set the standard where it will have its maximum environmental benefit.
Q: Is the President bringing back his call for ANWR exploration today?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: You will hear the President talk about the full range of measures that are needed in a comprehensive energy package. One of those themes is increasing our domestic supply. And the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the area that was specifically set aside for future development, is a key part of that effort to increase our domestic supply.
Q: Has the dynamics of the argument changed from last year? Do you see any better chance for progress this year?
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: We are more hopeful this year than ever before.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: We think there are more votes that will be lined up in favor of this, especially in the face of high gasoline prices, in the face of high natural gas prices, and the face of unprecedentedly-high coal prices.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's an important part of the President's comprehensive strategy when it comes to energy. So the President remains committed to it. And we're hopeful we can get it passed this year.
CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: I just returned from a tour this past weekend up to ANWR. The technology by which they do both exploration and production is truly amazing. It has virtually no footprint, and has virtually no impact on the environment -- up in Alaska.
MR. McCLELLAN: And the President will probably touch on that aspect of it in his remarks, as well. He'll talk about how it will have a minimal impact on the land.
Q: Can I ask you about Koizumi?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q: On the beef exports, what did they talk about, specifically?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's an important issue. Obviously, we would like to see the market opened up. And it's something that we're continuing to discuss with the Japanese government. I think Secretary Rice is going to be traveling in the region soon, and I'm sure that she will talk about the issue, as well, with Japanese officials.
Q: No progress today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, they had a good discussion, and that's where it stands.
Q: The issue of SPRO, Strategic Petroleum Reserve, is always going to come up. Again Senator Schumer is having a press conference, saying you should do something about it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the most constructive step we can take right now to address the issue of rising energy prices is to work together to finally pass a comprehensive energy strategy. In terms of -- we need comprehensive solutions, not patchwork crisis management.
In terms of the SPRO, we've made it very clear that we do not believe it should be tapped for political purposes or to manipulate prices. It is there for -- in the event of severe disruption of supply or other emergencies. I mean, if we came to that situation, we would not hesitate to act to use it. But it's there for that purpose, and for national security purposes, in the event that there's a natural disaster or a terrorist attack or a disruption of supply at home. That's our view.
Q: So just to reiterate, in your view, high gasoline prices don't constitute the kind of emergency -- you don't think that high gas prices at the pump constitute the kind of national emergency that would require --
MR. McCLELLAN: The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created so that we -- in the case of severe disruption of supply or an emergency situation -- and those emergency situations would be something like a terrorist attack or a natural disaster or a major disruption of supply within our country. And that's why we need to make sure it's there for those -- in the event of a situation like that. And we do not believe it should be used to try to manipulate prices, or for political purposes.
There are national security reasons why we have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And the best step we can take now to address these issues is for Congress to act on the President's comprehensive energy strategy. This is an issue that continues to come up, year after year. And that's why the President has called on Congress to act on the energy plan that he has outlined.
We've taken a number of steps -- and the President is going to talk about that in his remarks -- a number of steps to implement parts of that comprehensive energy strategy. We call on Congress to act on this proposal this year, so that we can have a comprehensive solution. The American people want us to solve these problems, and that's why the President will call on the Congress to continue to act.
Q: Well, do you want to respond to -- Lindsey Graham says that retirement accounts are a sideshow and it was a strategic mistake to emphasize them.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you've heard the President talk about the importance of making the Social Security system permanently sound and making sure that we strengthen it for our children and grandchildren. Personal accounts are a part of a comprehensive solution to strengthen Social Security. And what personal accounts -- why personal accounts are important is that they will give younger workers the option of realizing a greater rater of return on their benefits and realizing something that is closer to what the system promises. The system cannot deliver what it has promised. It is an empty promise right now.
And that's why it's an important part of strengthening Social Security. But the President has made it very clear that we need to make sure that -- the safety net of Social Security has a big whole in it, and we need to make sure that that safety net is there for our children and grandchildren. And that's why we need to act now to permanently fix Social Security.
There was an effort in 1983, where people from both parties came together. This was an effort that Chairman Greenspan was very involved in. And they worked to come up with a solution, but it did not permanently fix the system. And here we are, just a couple of decades later, and we see that Social Security is still on a -- is on an unsustainable course. And that's why we need to act now to address it.
So the President will continue to emphasize the importance of making -- permanently fixing Social Security and the importance of personal accounts to strengthening it. And that's what I go back to, is when you look at the system today, it is promising things -- it is making a promise to our children and grandchildren that it cannot meet. And that's why personal accounts are important, because if you model it under something similar to the Thrift Savings Plan, they will realize a significant amount of return on their own retirement savings, and it will let them own some of their own money. Right now the Social Security system -- and you're looking at a, I believe it's like a 1.8 percent return on your investment. We want to see younger workers have the voluntary option of being able to realize a greater rater of return. I think some of the Social Security actuaries estimate it could be in the 7 percent range. So that would help them build a nest egg that would be there own. And that's why it's important.
Q: Okay, thanks, Scott.
END 12:55 P.M. EST
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