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. Bush Urges US To Conserve Gasoline

The US government released a total of more than 23 million barrels from the reserve after Katrina battered the US Gulf Coast, home to many refineries and oil platforms.

Washington (AFP) Sep 26, 2005
US President George W. Bush on Monday urged Americans alarmed by sky-high gasoline prices to cut back on driving as he laid out steps to fix supply problems in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In a speech at the US Department of Energy, Bush said he was monitoring efforts to get pipelines and refineries back up to full capacity and that he was willing to tap the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a remedy.

"It's important for our people to know that we understand the situation and that we're willing to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to mitigate any shortfalls in crude oil that could affect our consumers," he said.

The US government released a total of more than 23 million barrels from the reserve after Katrina battered the US Gulf Coast, home to many refineries and oil platforms.

Bush, his poll numbers at their worst levels since he took office four years ago, said he had waived environmental and other restrictions in order to be able to import gasoline from Europe and allow greater use of diesel fuel.

The president said he would travel to coastal areas of Texas on Tuesday to hear about recovery efforts and also made a broad appeal for Americans to be "better conservers of energy" -- starting with government workers.

"We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darned sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit," he said.

Asked about Bush's six trips to storm-ravaged regions, including one this past weekend in which he mostly attended military briefings, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the visits were important.

"It was very important for the president to be there and be able to get a firsthand account of how those operations are being carried out and to hear firsthand some of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina," he said.

Bush also said that the United States needs to build more refineries -- the last new one dates back to the 1970s -- and reiterated his call for building new nuclear power plants.

"I am for increasing supply, because I understand the more supply there is of a product, that will take pressure off of price," said the president.

Bush also refused to rule out appointing a reconstruction point-person -- or "czar" -- to steer a rebuilding effort that is expected to run in the hundreds of billions of dollars, even eclipsing the cost of the war in Iraq.

"It's an idea that I'm still considering," he said. "I think the idea of having, you know, a federal interface with local folks might be a good idea."

"But the vision element of reconstruction is just beginning. And there may be a need for an interface with a particular person to help make sure that the vision becomes reality," said Bush.

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New Orleans Wants Water Out, Residents In
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (AFP) Sep 26, 2005
Officials are scrambling to start draining New Orleans of new floodwaters and fill it again with its evacuated residents after the city fell victim of a one-two hurricane punch.

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