For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 7, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:13 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I have nothing to announce, so I'm pleased to take your questions.
Q Ari, why is a temporary or permanent cut in the federal gasoline tax not a possible option for the problem with spiraling prices?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is very concerned about the rise in gasoline prices. He's very concerned about the impact that it's having on Americans, particularly, lower income Americans, who need their vehicles to drive to get to work and to enjoy their family lives. And that's one of the reasons the President is pushing so strongly for a comprehensive energy policy, and also for a tax cut, so he can get money into the hands of people who are being hit by rising gas prices.
During the campaign last year there was much made about the possibility of repealing the federal gas tax, or limiting the federal gas tax. The President did not join in that call. I would alert you just to wait until the final recommendations come out of the task force.
As I indicated this morning, the President has not joined that chorus before -- I do not rule it out, but I have said very clearly that's not something the President is focused on. His focus is on long-term solutions, not quick fixes. Quick fixes don't work. He wants to have a focus on that which is long-term, that will work.
Q Well, wouldn't this quick fix certainly work in shaving a little bit off the price? What's the detriment of doing it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the focus of the President is to move forward on a long-term solution to a problem that's been very long in the making. And one of the things that's wrong with Washington, in the President's opinion, is people too often move from one quick fix, one short-term, non-solution to the next short-term non-solution, without focusing people's attention on the big matters that really count.
And in the case of energy, that's a focus on how to conserve energy, conserve fuel, develop more resources, have better infrastructures so that electricity can move across transmission grids and natural gas can move across pipelines in a manner that gets the market to the market, in a manner that lowers costs on a full-time basis for the consumer.
Q Is one of the problems with this, and the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country. What we need to do is make certain that we're able to get those resources in an efficient way, in a way that also emphasizes protecting the environment and conservation, into the hands of consumers so they can make the choices that they want to make as they live their lives day to day.
Q So Americans should go on consuming as much more energy than any other citizens in any other countries of the world, as long as they want?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the President believes that the American people are very wise and that, given the right incentives, they will know how and they will make their own right determinations about how much they can conserve, just as the President announced last week that the federal government, as part of its consumership in California will reduce energy needs -- for example, the Department of Defense facilities in California, by 10 percent. He believes the American people, too, will make the right decisions about conservation and the program he will announce shortly will also include a series of conservation items.
But the President also believes that the American people's use of energy is a reflection of the strength of our economy, of the way of life that the American people have come to enjoy. And he wants to make certain that a national energy policy is comprehensive, that includes conservation, includes a way of allowing the American people to continue to enjoy the way of life that has made the United States such a leading nation in the world.
Q Ari, would he recommend, then, to people, as a President exercising his moral leadership, that they're more conscious of the amount of energy they use, that they scale back, that people conserve more?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you'll hear a rounded and comprehensive proposal very shortly from the President that includes several items that hint at what you're suggesting.
Q -- use the word "conservation" in selling the energy plan, the reality is that the core of this plan to be unveiled is a call on finding more energy supplies. And everybody has emphasized that. There's a growing chorus now of not just environmental activists, but also scientists within the government who say that, in fact, conservation and renewable energies could do a lot more to cut demand than is being given credit for or even being given a try. Do you dismiss the recent DOE study that came to that conclusion?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, we do not dismiss it. But you can't prejudge what the President is going to propose because you don't know what he is going to propose in terms of conservation.
Q Well, I think we all know some of the really core outlines of it.
MR. FLEISCHER: There's also a reflection of the fact that 88 percent of America's energy comes from fossil fuels. The remaining 12 percent come from renewables, biomass, wind, solar. It's a very small percentage. And among that 12 percent -- you also have nuclear in that mix. And so the amount of energy that can come from -- let me put it to you this way.
The place that the American people get most of their energy that we are dependent on to preserve the American way of life does come from fossil fuels. And within the remaining portion of the energy that the American people use, the President is committed to a conservation program to help Americans to conserve more. And that's reflected in the President's priorities, the weatherization program in his budget, for example, to help people have more energy-efficient homes. And it will also be reflected in some other things you're going to learn in the next week or two when the President unveils his policy.
Conservation is, indeed, an important part of getting America energy-independent. Conservation alone is not the answer. Nothing alone is the answer, and that's why the President's proposal will be a very well-rounded one.