Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (search) wants to increase American energy production and reduce American reliance on foreign oil with a $20 billion fund to finance research and development of alternative and renewable fuels.
"That's what I want to talk about today — how to make our country stronger and safer by working together to build an energy-independent America," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery Friday.
The fund would promote energy sources like natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy (search) generated from corn, soybeans and other crops, the campaign said.
"America will be safer and freer when the resources that fuel our economy are in our hands and when we develop new energy sources in our country," he said.
Kerry says one-fifth of the fuels powering U.S. cars and trucks should come from energy sources such as corn and soybeans (search) by 2020.
Kerry was discussing his plan during a visit to a Missouri family farm near a new Ford Motor Co. plant that will make the first hybrid sport utility vehicle, which runs on a combination of gasoline and electricity.
On Thursday, stocks tumbled after a surge in oil prices rattled Wall Street. Light crude closed at a record $44.41 a barrel, up $1.58.
For consumers, Kerry's plan to spend $20 billion over a decade to develop more clean-burning fuels and environmental technology would mean incentives, like tax breaks, worth up to $5,000 for the purchase of clean and efficient vehicles. Kerry wants those vehicles to be made in the United States, and he would put half of the $20 billion toward helping American manufacturers rebuild their plants to make more efficient vehicles.
Kerry's rolling campaign charged through this bellwether state, which has voted for the eventual winner in every presidential race but one during the last 100 years, on the first day of its journey by train.
His final stop Thursday was in Sedalia, Mo., where a large, late-night crowd gathered around the train that bore Kerry, vice presidential running mate John Edwards and their wives westward. A contingent of Bush supporters was also there, shouting loudly enough at times to drown out the Democratic ticket mates.
"If Laura Bush was here I'd say hello politely to her, and I'd expect you to do it too," Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, told the crowd in a rebuke of the hecklers.
At repeated stops along the way of this coast-to-coast campaign trip, Kerry drew a connection between the development of domestic energy sources and greater national security.
"We're going to make sure we provide real security for our nation because as long as we are a country which God gave only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves to, as long as we have to import 53 percent of our oil from other nations, as long as the Saudis and the Middle Eastern countries have 65 percent of the world's oil reserves, we are always dependent on someone else," he said to a cheering crowd in St. Louis.
Vice President Dick Cheney has blamed rising oil prices on Democratic opposition to Republican energy plans.
If Kerry really wants alternative fuels to succeed, he should help pass an energy bill that's stalled in Congress, Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said.
"He is blocking passage of the energy bill in the U.S. Senate that would decrease America's dependence on foreign oil by allowing for drilling in Alaska and incentivize the production of alternative fuels like hydrogen, solar and wind," Schmidt said.
Kerry opposes the bill because it permits drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Another portion of his energy plan would put $10 billion into clean coal technologies.