His speeches ranging from 9 March in Columbus, Ohio, to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington on 20 April focused on reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy.

On 9 March he directly mentioned foreign dependence 12 times. On 20 April he mentioned it 14 times and on 27 April 15.

"Our dependence on foreign energy is like a foreign tax on the American Dream," he said.

Bush tried to drive home his Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) drilling plans, in addition to clean coal technology, nuclear power stations, ethanol and biodiesel production, energy conservation, liquid natural gas (LNG) imports, new internal energy infrastructure and expanding America's oil refinery capacity as alternatives to foreign oil dependence.

Energy supply problem

Each item was underpinned with the basic message. If Bush's new bill were to be passed the less reliant his country would be on other parts of the world.

The plan to drill for oil in the ANWR was backed by a series of appeals. On 27 April he said the "ANWR could eventually yield up to a million barrels of oil per day. That's a million barrels less that we've depended on from foreign sources of energy."

Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez threatened to halt supply

A week earlier, he tied the prospect of the ANWR drilling to removing dependence on Venezuelan oil imports. Tension between Washington and Caracas recently flared when Venezuela threatened to cut off oil exports to the US.

Chris Skrebowski, of the Energy Institute in London, says the message shows that the administration is recognising that there is a supply problem with energy.

"At the moment, they are treating that problem as a strategic issue rather than an intrinsic long-term one. It's quite staggering," Skrebowski told Aljazeera.net.

Analysis

Senior energy analyst of the bank Societe Generale Deborah White says: "These are similar ideas that people had in the 1970s, about making the USA self-sufficient in energy. But they soon realised it was an impossible goal."

A child on Earth Day climbs on a
bus powered by vegetable oil

Bush's other proposals were interspersed with the same message - alternative fuels.

"Congress needs to continue strong support for ethanol and biodiesel," Bush said on 9 March.

"We're going to continue to figure out ways to grow our way out of dependence on foreign oil.

"Someday somebody is going to walk in and say, well, we got a lot of soy beans, Mr President. And we're less dependent on foreign sources of oil because of biodiesel."

Rising prices

Twice Bush invoked a meeting with soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, where he said "a bunch of the enlisted personnel" were worried about rising petrol prices.

As a follow-up on 20 April he reiterated that "we have got to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy".

Bush has persistently outlined
the need to drill in the ANWR

"It's a matter of economic security and it's also a matter of national security. When America depends on only a handful of countries for nearly 60% of our oil, the danger of major energy disruption grows."

Skrebowski, however, remains sceptical. "I don't think the administration really think they have the ability to be self-sufficient in energy.

"It is psychological preparation for the American people to accept price rises in the fourth quarter of this year when we look set to have a large demand spike."

White also sees more fundamental changes needed in American energy use if it is to balance its demand with a reduction in foreign supply.

"The USA would be much closer to energy independence if its prices were the same as Europe. Basically, fuel prices in the States are so cheap there that they end up using around 25% of all the world’s energy supply. Until those basic issues change, self sufficiency will remain impossible."