President Bush’s final “State of the Union” speech to the nation last Monday left out oil and natural gas altogether, but the president, in fact sheets released prior to the address, urged Congress to pass legislation during 2008 that provides greater access to domestic oil and gas resources in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and Alaska.

“We were pleased to see that much-needed domestic energy supply was cited in White House fact sheets on the address, and we hope Congress will likewise include it as part of its agenda this year,” said Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council.

“Natural gas plays a key role in a variety of climate solutions; it’s the raw material for chemistry that goes into energy-saving products, including those for wind and solar power, and it’s used to produce renewable fuels, cleaner transportation fuels and lower-emission electricity,” he noted.

However, Rep. John Peterson, a strong advocate of offshore drilling, was disappointed that oil and gas were not specifically cited in the speech. “This was the president’s final opportunity to declare to American people that we should finally [break] our shackles from foreign nations and move toward energy security by opening up the Outer Continental Shelf for energy production. Sadly, though, the president did not use [the] occasion to demonstrate leadership on energy security,” he said.

“I believe strongly that we must, as a nation, invest heavily in alternative and renewable forms of energy. However, investment in these forms of energy alone is not the answer to our energy crisis — increased supply is,” Peterson said following the nearly hour-long speech.

In his “State of the Union” speech, the president called for increased use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power; greater investment in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power cars and trucks in the future; the creation of a $2 billion international clean technology fund to help developing nations like China and India make greater use of clean energy; and the completion of a Kyoto Protocol-like international agreement within two years that has the potential to “slow, stop and eventually reverse” the growth of greenhouse gases.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), which represents independent oil and gas producers, emphasized that a “solid energy policy” should include enhanced oil and gas development. “The fact remains that even with a fivefold increase in renewables like wind and solar over the next 25 years, they would make up less than 1% of the total energy mix. Developing America’s oil and natural gas resources is the best solution to meeting this country’s growing energy needs and reducing foreign energy dependency,” said IPAA President Barry Russell.

“In addition to the Bush administration’s proposals to allow oil exploration in some areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we should also open access to natural gas supplies in the mountain states and allow increased exploration and production in the Outer Continental Shelf, where we are known to have decades of oil and gas supplies,” he noted.

Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, applauded the president for his continued commitment to expanding clean energy. “I’m particularly thankful for the administration’s strong support for nuclear power, which I believe will be an important part of the president’s legacy,” he said.

“President Bush’s call for a $2 billion clean energy technology fund sends a signal that the United States will do its part to address global climate change. However, as the president noted, we must receive significant contributions from every major economy if we truly wish to address this problem.”

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