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President George Bush today spoke of energy during a visit to Wisconsin, but rather than concentrate on traditional energy resources, his remarks were directed toward new methods of treating what he called the nation's addiction to foreign oil.
In an address before employees at Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee-based automotive battery manufacturer that is developing a new fuel cell for hybrid automobiles, he touted the energy initiative he outlined during the State of the Union address and repeated his pledge to move toward energy independence through technology, citing the goal of a 75% reduction in imports from the Middle East by 2025.
"I know it came as a shock to some to hear a Texan stand up there in front of the country and say, We got a real problem. America is addicted to oil,'" he said referring to the State of the Union, "but I meant it."
Two-thirds of the nation's research and development dollars are invested by the private sector, and a third are provided by government. One piece of Bush's energy strategy is to develop a successor to the internal combustion engine, and that's why Johnson Controls' Glendale plant was the backdrop for Monday's remarks.
Having launched a lithium-ion battery development laboratory last fall, Johnson Controls is trying to shape the next generation of hybrid vehicles. Given their purported advantages in power-generation, life cycle, and cost, Johnson Controls believes that lithium-ion batteries will replace the nickel-metal-hydride batteries now used in hybrid vehicles.
The United States Advanced Battery Consortium, a group of government and private-sector entities that include the U.S. Department of Energy and major automobile manufacturers, has granted Johnson Controls a contract for lithium-ion battery development.
The cornerstone of Bush's energy initiative is a 22 percent increase in funding for clean energy research at the Department of Energy. Thus far, the Bush Administration has spent $10 billion on research into advanced automobile batteries and other power-storage solutions, and in an effort to create a competitive alternative to gasoline, it is pushing for ways to make ethanol from material other than corn.
Bush cited public and private sector investment in new vehicles that require less gasoline, new fuels that will replace gasoline, and new ways to run vehicles without gasoline.
"Using new lithium-ion batteries, engineers will be able to design the next generation of hybrid vehicles, called plug-in hybrids, that can be recharged through a standard electrical outlet," Bush said. "Start picturing what I'm talking about. You've got your car, you pull in, [and] you plug it right in the wall."
Initially, it is estimated that plug-in hybrids will be able to travel only 40 miles on electricity alone. Eventually Johnson Controls hopes to develop batteries that can last the entire lifetime of a car. The President said $31 million would be provided to speed up research into such advanced technologies, a 27 percent increase over current funding levels.
More than 200,000 hybrid-electric vehicles were sold in the United States last year, and the global market for hybrid-electric vehicles has grown as gasoline prices soared to record levels. They are considered a bridge technology between vehicles powered by internal combustion engines and the cars of the more distant future, which will be powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells. To stimulate greater domestic demand, the federal government provides a tax credit of up to $3,400 per hybrid vehicle purchaser.