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State of the Union, Gasless

As President Bush’s speechwriters are putting the finishing touches on his State of the Union address, here is an extra minute or so of material I’d love to see them work in:

“My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight to announce a historic undertaking—to call on the American people to put an end to our destructive and shortsighted dependence on oil.

“During World War II, President Roosevelt created the Manhattan
Project—the remarkable wartime effort that enlisted the greatest scientific and technical minds in the country to help protect us from the tyranny of fascism. Today, as we fight the war on terrorism, we need to commit the same all-out effort to freeing ourselves from the nations and terrorists holding us hostage through our addiction to oil.

“With this in mind, I call upon Congress to enact legislation immediately raising the mileage standards for all cars and SUVs to 40 miles per
gallon—a move that will save American car owners $45 billion each and every year on their gasoline bill. That is money that can be used right now to stimulate our economy.

“Congress also needs to close the senseless loophole that allows the biggest gas-guzzlers to get the biggest tax breaks. I’m taking the lead on this issue by abandoning that component of my new economic plan that would increase by 50 percent the already-substantial write-off available to buyers of the least-efficient SUVs. People buying fully loaded Hummers, Navigators and Land Cruisers should not be able to immediately deduct the entire price of their vehicles.

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t smart, and it isn’t safe—as was made refreshingly clear earlier this month by my auto-safety chief, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, who pointed out that, when it comes to SUVs, size doesn’t equal safety. The rollover death rate is three times higher in SUVs than in cars. Please join me in saluting Dr. Runge for his candor and his passionate commitment to passenger safety.’’

(Note: The president points to the VIP gallery, where Dr. Runge will be seated next to the First Lady. Wait for Dr. Runge to acknowledge the applause.)

“But those of us in Washington can’t solve this crisis on our own. That’s why tonight I am challenging the American auto industry to use the hybrid technology currently available to produce a full line of socially responsible vehicles—including hybrid SUVs. More than ever, we need the talent and entrepreneurial spirit Detroit has exhibited in the past. And we need to mobilize the resources at our disposal to develop the hydrogen fuel cell technology that will set us free from our dependence on oil. We can’t simply drill our way to energy
freedom—it can only be achieved through conservation and innovation. And rest assured, if American industry doesn’t rise to this mission, others will.

“Last year I told you that we were at war—and asked you to do your part by shopping and traveling. It wasn’t enough. So tonight I’m calling on you to commit yourselves to this large, collective purpose—and to the shared sacrifice needed to meet this monumental challenge.

“I’m asking each of you out there to do your part by switching to a more fuel-efficient car. An increase of just three miles per gallon would save us from having to import 1 million barrels of oil a day—and from having to go begging, hat in hand, to countries that harbor terrorists, like Saudi Arabia.

“We should all follow the example being set in Massachusetts by my good friend and fellow Republican, Gov. Mitt Romney, who wants to trade in his state’s fleet of SUVs for cars that cost less, pollute less and get better mileage. Take a bow, Mitt!”

(Note: Wave to Gov. Romney, who will be seated on the other side of the First Lady.)

“My friends, we have everything we need to win this war—we just have to summon the strength, the spirit and the drive that have defined the turning points of this great nation.

“We can do better. We must do better. We will do better.

“Good night—and God Bless America.”

A columnist can dream, can’t she?

—Arianna Huffington

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