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Bush Touts Alternative Energy, HSAs

He stresses competitiveness in his State of the Union address.
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Rising healthcare costs and a dependence on unreliable overseas energy threaten U.S. economic autonomy and could be partially cured through technology, President Bush said in his State of the Union address.

Addressing Congress ahead of midterm elections this fall, Bush advocated the development of alternative fuels to help cut U.S. energy imports by three-quarters over the next two decades. Specifically, Bush called for expanded research into a form of ethanol that is derived from agricultural waste.

"Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years," Bush said in the televised address. "Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

Bush, whose address contained no sweeping proposal on a par with last year's ill-fated initiative to reform Social Security, unveiled a plan to expand clean-energy research at the federal level and touted zero-emission coal-fired power plants, solar and wind technology, and "clean, safe nuclear energy."

"We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass," he said.

On healthcare, Bush said technology and market liberalization will help "strengthen the doctor-patient relationship" and ease the burden of an aging Baby Boomer generation. As expected, he advocated the expansion of health savings accounts, which combine a high-deductible insurance policy and a tax-favored savings account.

"We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors," Bush said. "We will strengthen health savings accounts -- by making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get."

The president also called for increased portability of healthcare coverage, "so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance." He also repeated a call for medical liability reform.

In addition, Bush reiterated his call for Congress to make permanent the cuts in nonsecurity discretionary spending he pushed through last year.