US President George W. Bush summoned his top energy advisers Monday to discuss ways to deal with energy shortages in the country, but warned that it "will take time" to resolve the problem.
"There are no short-term fixes," said Bush as he talked to reporters after a meeting with a cabinet-level panel placed in charge of producing a national energy policy.
"The solution for our energy shortage requires long-term thinking and a plan that we'll implement that will take time to bring to fruition," added the president.
The meeting came two days after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to cut oil output by one million barrels a day.
US officials have called the decision "disappointing," but hastened to say that the OPEC decision underscored the need for a comprehensive US national energy policy to curb US dependence on imported oil.
While acknowledging that the administration was troubled by the OPEC-proposed cutbacks, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer sought to downplay the role of OPEC in US energy woes.
He said domestic production of oil continued to drop precipitously while demand for oil was projected to grow one-third by 2020.
"We produce 39 percent less oil today than we did in 1970 just prior to the energy crisis of 1973," Fleischer said. "By 2020, under current projections, we'll only produce approximately half of what we produced in 1970.
If in 1973, the United States imported 36 percent of consumed oil, that share rose to 57 percent today, according to Fleischer.
And unless domestic production is increased, the United States would be importing o 64 percent of the oil consumed in the country by 2020, the spokesman said.
Not one new refinery has been built in the United States in over 25 years, according to the White House.
In late January, Bush placed Vice President Richard Cheney in charge of the panel that would "promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound" production and distribution of energy for the future.
Proposals under consideration include drilling for oil on federal lands, including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and expanded burning of coal, which are strongly opposed by environmental groups.
The meeting also coincided with new rolling blackouts in California, with the state's energy authority saying malfunctions and alternative energy troubles hit California's fragile power grid.
Bush said his national energy policy include "good conservation, but as well exploration for oil and gas and coal and development of energy sources that exist within our 50 states."
The president said that during his meeting last month with Mexican President Vicente Fox he encouraged him "to begin allowing foreign capital to explore for natural gas in Mexico."
He said he has also discussed energy problems with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. "A good energy policy is one that understands we've got energy in our hemisphere and how best to explore for it and transport it to markets," said Bush.
Citing a study by the National Association of Manufacturers, US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said earlier Monday that soaring fuel prices between 1999 and 2000 cost the US economy more than $115 billion.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse 2001.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)