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Special Event

George W. Bush Responds to Gore Proposal to Tap Oil Reserves

Aired September 21, 2000 - 1:47 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: George Bush is appearing in Cleveland. His message of the day is Social Security, but there's a healthy political debate going over what some see as an energy crisis and Al Gore's proposal that the petroleum reserve be opened up to force down oil prices. Bush disagrees with that. Let's listen to what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our own domestic production of crude oil is at lowest level in almost 50 years, since 1954. We have no comprehensive energy policy.

Today my opponent, in response to public outcry, proposed that our nation tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That's bad public policy.

The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security.

Mr. Gore is not heeding the advice of members of his own administration and the head of the Federal Reserve Board. In a memo written earlier this month, Secretary of Treasury Lawrence Summers, a member of President Clinton's Cabinet, warned that he and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan believe opening the Strategic Reserve would be a major and substantial policy mistake.

The vice president seemed to recognize the wisdom of this advice just last winter when he opposed dipping into the reserve. Then he noted that OPEC could easily counter that action. All they would have to do -- this is the vice president's word -- would be to cut back a little bit on the supply, he said, and they would wipe out any impact from the release of oil from that reserve. Now that we are 47 days away from the election he's changed his mind and is ignoring his own advice.

America has no plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and my opponent doesn't seem to have any plan to make us less dependent on overseas production.

As the president, let me tell you what I'd like to do. Aggressively explore for oil and natural gas on our own continent. I believe we need to open up ANWR, which is in Alaska, and believe we can do so in an environmentally friendly way.

That we need to expand refining capacity in the United States. The more refined products that are produced, the better it'll be for consumer.

And we need to expand electric-generating capacity in the United States of America. The more capacity there is to generate electricity, the better off -- the better it is off for consumers.

And we need to support hydroelectric projects throughout the country, renewable sources of energy that are clean to produce.

And on the foreign policy front, we need to work with our friends and allies in OPEC, as well as energy-producing countries in our own hemisphere, to ensure greater stability in our oil markets and energy markets.

I don't believe the role of government's to create wealth, but an environment in which people are willing to risk capital. I also believe government ought to trust individuals. And so when you hear my discussions today about what I intend to do for America, I want you to hear inherent my philosophy -- my polices is this philosophy -- that I trust people. I trust people to make the right decisions for their families. I trust people to make the right decisions when it comes to health care. I trust people when it comes -- to make the right decisions with their own money. And I trust people to make the right decisions when it comes to managing retirement accounts.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me talk about Social Security. First, in order to make sure the promise of Social Security is fulfilled for those dependent upon Social Security today...

WATERS: George Bush on to Social Security, one of his campaign stump speeches on that subject. But before that, "a bad public policy" he calls Al Gore's proposal to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserves in the United States to combat the high energy prices, especially in the northeastern U.S. in advance of the winter months now and the rising cost of home heating oil prices. He said the Strategic -- Mr. Bush said the Strategic Petroleum Reserves should be used only for an interruption of supply or war and not used for short- term political gain.

And the governor of Texas offered some solutions of his own for the current state of affairs over rising crude oil prices: aggressively explore for oil and gas on our continent, expand refining capacity in the United States, expand electrical generating capacity in the United States, support hydroelectric projects, and open up diplomatic initiatives to increase the oil supply.

A healthy political debate in this election season over high energy prices. We'll be hearing much more about it in the hours, days and weeks ahead. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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