[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 37, Number 12 (Monday, March 26, 2001)]
[Pages 469-470]
[Online from the Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

<R04>
Remarks Following a Meeting With the National Energy Policy Development 
Group and an Exchange With Reporters

March 19, 2001

    The President. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate the Vice 
President calling this meeting. It's a meeting to bring me up to speed 
as to what the committee that we put together to look at the energy 
situation in America, where we are. His group is making good progress. 
Obviously, this is an issue that this administration takes very 
seriously. We've assembled senior members of the Cabinet to analyze the 
situation and to come up with recommendations.
    It is clear from first analysis that demand for energy in the United 
States is increasing, much more so than production is. And as a result, 
we're finding in certain parts of the country that we're short on 
energy. And this administration is concerned about it, and we will make 
a recommendation to the country as to how to proceed.
    But one thing is for certain: There are no short-term fixes--that 
the solution for our energy shortage requires long-term thinking and a 
plan that we'll implement that will take time to bring to fruition. It 
not only includes good conservation but, as well, exploration for oil 
and gas and coal, development of energy sources that exist within our 50 
States.
    It also requires good foreign policy, and that's--in order to 
increase the amount of energy available for American consumers, we've to 
work closely with our neighbors to the north and the south, which we 
will do.
    And so, Mr. Vice President, thank you. You've done good work, and we 
look forward to reporting to the Nation when your report is final.

OPEC Production Limits

    Q. Mr. President, during the campaign you said that you'd be able to 
work with our allies in OPEC to get them to restrain the prices. Given 
what happened over the weekend, what went wrong? Do you consider it a 
direct rebuff to your administration's entreaty? And what are you going 
to do about it?
    The President. The OPEC nations are responding to decreased demand. 
World demand, they think, is going to decrease, and therefore, they've 
responded with a million-barrel cut.
    The piece of good news in their decision was that the Saudi minister 
made it clear that he and his friends would not allow the price of oil, 
crude oil, to exceed $28 a barrel. That's very comforting to the 
American consumer, and I appreciate that gesture. I thought that was a 
very strong statement of understanding, that high prices of crude oil 
will affect our economy.
    Having said that, it's important for American consumers to 
understand that if we have a price spike in refined product, it's not 
going to be because of the price of crude oil being at $25 or $26 a 
barrel. It's going to be because we don't have enough capacity, refining 
capacity; we're not generating enough product. And that's another issue 
that we'll be dealing with, is how to make sure we can get refined 
product to our consumers.
    Q. So this cut in production won't have an impact on gasoline prices 
this summer?
    The President. We don't think so. We think that the major--the major 
impact on gasoline prices, if they go up, is a result of not generating 
enough supply--enough refined product to meet the demand of U.S. 
drivers. And we haven't built a refinery in 25 years in America. We're 
not generating enough gasoline to meet demands. It's the same as natural 
gas. We're not exploring for enough natural gas to meet demand; we're 
not building enough power generating plants to meet demand; and we're 
beginning to pay the price for it.
    America has got to understand that energy is an issue, and we're 
going to deal with it.

[[Page 470]]

Strategic Petroleum Reserve

    Q. Mr. President, you say there are no short-term fixes, but are you 
considering, or will you consider short-term options in case there are 
shortages this summer, such as tapping into the Strategic Petroleum 
Reserve?
    The President. We've been through that before. The Strategic 
Petroleum Reserve is meant for a national emergency when it comes to 
war. There are some things we can do. We can work with California, at 
the Governor's request, to expedite permitting. And Administrator 
Whitman has done an excellent job of working with California to 
encourage and enable California to more speedily build plants.
    The energy crunch we're in is a supply and demand issue. And we need 
to reduce demand and increase supply. The best public policy is to 
understand that, and that's what we're going to do.

Hemispheric Energy Resources

    Q. Mr. President, what about tapping Mexico's oil reserves? Have you 
thought about what that----
    The President. Well, we had a good discussion. I had a very good 
discussion with Vicente Fox. And Secretary Abraham had a very good 
discussion with his counterpart from Mexico. Mexico has to make the 
decision as to whether or not they will be willing to allow foreign 
capital to explore for oil and gas in their country. That's the Mexican 
decision to make.
    I encouraged the President to begin allowing foreign capital to 
explore for natural gas in Mexico. It would be to our benefit. Gas is 
hemispheric. An mcf of gas found in Mexico is beneficial for the United 
States and Canada, even though it's found in Mexico. And the Vice 
President and I have had discussions with Prime Minister Chretien about 
exploration for natural gas.
    A good energy policy is one that understands we've got energy in our 
hemisphere and how best to explore for it and transport it to markets. 
So you bet, we've continued discussions with Mexico, as well as Canada.

Meeting With Black Ministers

    Q. The black religious leaders that you met with this afternoon, 
they emerged from the meeting and were very highly complimentary of you 
and your faith-based plan. Were you encouraged about the meeting that 
you had with them as much as they were? And how crucial is their support 
to your Faith-Based Initiative?
    The President. Well, the black ministers with whom I met are very 
crucial for helping change the neighborhoods and communities in which 
they live. Many of those preachers are bishops over churches that have 
got great programs and change people's hearts and provide hope in 
neighborhoods where there is no hope. So I view them not as agents of 
politics; I view them as agents of change. And they are supportive of 
our efforts to empower people to be able to make choices as to where to 
find services and help. And I am supportive of their efforts to provide 
help where help is needed. And I really appreciate them coming, so I was 
very encouraged by the meeting.

Note: The President spoke at 4:50 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to President Vicente Fox of Mexico; 
Gov. Gray Davis of California; and Prime Minister Jean Chretien of 
Canada. A tape was not available for verification of the content of 
these remarks.