Reporting on Bush's renewable energy tour, Wash. Post soft-pedaled White House retreat from SOTU pledge

››› ››› ANNA DIMOND

In an article about President Bush's renewable energy tour, The Washington Post overlooked the White House's retreat from Bush's pledge to "replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." The article also reported on Bush's planned visit to the National Renewal Energy Laboratory without mentioning that just before his visit, the federal government had reallocated $5 million to restore the jobs of 32 employees who had been laid off as a result of administration budget cuts.

In a February 21 article on President Bush's multi-state tour this week to promote his latest energy proposals, Washington Post staff writer Jim VandeHei overlooked the White House's retreat from Bush's State of the Union (SOTU) pledge to "replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." While Samuel W. Bodman, Bush's secretary of energy, disavowed the promise the day after the speech, VandeHei noted only: "Since the [SOTU] speech, US officials have cautioned that reducing Middle East imports will be determined more by market conditions than government directives." The Post also reported that Bush planned to visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, but did not mention that just prior to Bush's visit, the federal government had reallocated $5 million to restore the jobs of 32 of the laboratory's employees who had been laid off as a result of the administration's budget cuts.

In contrast to VandeHei's report, a February 21 New York Times report by staff writer Elisabeth Bumiller noted that Bodman backed away from Bush's pledge just one day after the January 31 SOTU address, saying that Bush's stated goal was "merely an example" of possible efforts to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Bumiller also noted that during a February 20 speech on his multi-state tour, Bush "did not repeat [the] promise to cut back on Middle East oil imports that drew complaints from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Counties."

VandeHei also omitted from his article the fact that the government reallocated $5 million to restore jobs for 32 people who were laid off from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shortly after Bush's SOTU speech, in which he pledged to focus on increasing renewable energy. By contrast, the Times elaborated on the backstory, noting that Bodman approved the $5 million transfer over the weekend -- just before the President's arrival there:

A statement released Monday by the Energy Department said that Samuel W. Bodman, the energy secretary, ordered the transfer of $5 million over the weekend to immediately restore the jobs, which had been eliminated because of past budget cuts, thereby avoiding a political embarrassment for the president. Mr. Bush is to visit the laboratory, in Golden, Colo., on Tuesday morning.

From the February 21 Post report:

In his State of the Union speech, Bush called for efforts to "replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." Short of imposing bans or outright embargoes, Bush's goal will be very difficult if not impossible to meet because there is little the government can do to prevent companies from buying oil from any nation they choose, say energy experts. Since the speech, U.S. officials have cautioned that reducing Middle East imports will be determined more by market conditions than government directives.

[...]

Later in the day, Bush toured a solar energy plant in Auburn Hills, Mich., before spending the night in Colorado, where he planned to speak about energy Tuesday at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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