World

Bush's challenge to America: make Middle East oil dependence 'a thing of the past'

U.S. President George W. Bush used his annual state of the union address to urge Americans to keep faith with his Iraq policy - and come to terms with their "addiction to oil."

U.S. President George W. Bush used his annual state of the union address to urge Americans to keep faith with his Iraq policy - and come to terms with their "addiction to oil."

"In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting," said Bush, "yet it ends in danger and decline.

"The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership. So the United States of America will continue to lead."

Bush used most of his speech to discuss American foreign policy: Iraq, Iran, and North Korea continue to make the the world a dangerous place and the U.S. must remain vigilant, he said.

"In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores," the president said.

Bush also warned that "the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace."

He did not offer any new ideas, nor did he announce a timetable for removing U.S. forces from Iraq. But, the U.S., he said, will "take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands."

His vision of freedom and democracy spread around the world was a strong central theme.

"Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal - we seek the end of tyranny in our world. The future security of America depends on it," he said.

This was Bush's fifth state of the union address and comes after a year in which his personal popularity has taken a severe downturn. The devastation of the U.S. Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing human tragedy that played out on live television around the world; the failure of his Supreme Court nominee Harriet Myers; and the continuing deadly American involvement in Iraq, all combined to drive his approval rating down.

There are fears that Bush's unpopularity could affect the off-year Congressional elections. Republicans fear voters may punish the party and they could lose control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The rising price of gasoline has been another problem for Bush in the past year and on Tuesday night he told the American people that much of the problem is theirs - connecting domestic oil consumption with rising dangers in the world.

"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology."

But Bush didn't make any expensive promises aimed at curing the "addiction."

He proposed minor tax breaks to speed the development of zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

Bush also promised to push for the production of ethanol to power American cars as well as "research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen."

These measures, taken together, said Bush, will "make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq, managed to sneak into the limelight when she was taken into custody by police just before Bush began to speak.

She was escorted from the visitors gallery for causing a disruption.

Sheehan was attending the speech as the guest of Democratic Representative Lynn Woolsey of California.