With the start of the summer driving season approaching and gasoline prices soaring, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) said the United States should strive for energy independence.

"There are two reasons why we cannot be asleep at the wheel during this current energy crisis," Kerry said in the weekly Democratic radio address. "First, soaring energy prices are putting our economy at risk and second, our dependence on Middle East oil is putting our national security at risk. But it doesn't have to be this way."

In the short term, the Massachusetts senator said, the United States should divert oil being used to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (search) and bring it to market. The White House says, though, that would have only a negligible impact on pump prices. Kerry also said the country's leaders should demand that Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing nations increase supply.

He said his long-term strategy as president would include investments in alternative fuels and new technologies that are more fuel-efficient. He said he would establish tax credits to help make fuel-efficient cars more affordable.

"Our dependence on foreign oil is a problem we must solve together the only way we can — by inventing our way out of it," Kerry said.

The average price per gallon rose to $2.017 this week, the first time the national average has exceeded $2. Kerry and other Democrats blame President Bush and Republican leaders for allowing prices to rise so high, and his radio address reiterated the case he made earlier this week on the campaign trail.

"We're at war and families are struggling to make ends meet, especially with rising gas prices," Kerry said. "For our security, our economy and our environment, we must make America energy independent."