Low support

 

A Washington-Post/ABC News poll released on Monday gave Bush a job approval rating of 33 per cent, showing him to be at the weakest point of his presidency.

 

"Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people"

Extract from State of the Union address to be made by George Bush, US president

In his address to a nation increasingly opposed to the Iraq war and to a congress which for the first time in his presidency is controlled by Democrats, Bush will stress the need for unity.

 

"Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not.

 

"Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people," he says.

 

He is to warn that failure in Iraq could embolden Iran in what Washington believes is its pursuit of nuclear weapons, according to Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser to the president.


Domestic policy

 

While Iraq will be high on the agenda, Bush will also use the address to outline a domestic policy for the year.

 

He is to propose a reduction in US fuel usage by 20 per cent in 10 years, an increase in health care for Americans, a new immigration policy and improvements to education.


Bush's move to increase troop numbers in Iraq
has not met with universal approval [AFP]
 
Bush will say that improved vehicle fuel standards and diversification of energy sources – such as the use of ethanol fuel – is necessary. 


"It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply and the way forward is through technology," he says.

 

The energy proposals by Bush fall short of seeking mandatory caps on carbon emissions which are sought by some Democrats in the congress.

 

Bush is not pushing for a specific increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which many experts see as critical to reduce oil usage but which the White House fears would prompt manufacturers to build smaller, less-safe cars.


Instead, he will ask congress for authority to reform CAFE standards, with the goal of reducing projected annual fuel use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, according to Joel Kaplan, the deputy White House chief of staff.

 

Strategic reserve

 

Bush will also call for doubling the strategic petroleum reserve from 727 million barrels to 1.5 billion barrels, in a bid to bolster US energy security.

 

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"[The speech] will make a difference, as long as he comes out on the Iraq war situation and is honest"

theekid02, NYC, USA

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The US will begin buying extra oil this spring as part of a plan by the Bush administration to expand emergency reserves, the White House said on Tuesday.

 

"Expanding the strategic petroleum reserve is a wise and a prudent policy decision that would provide an additional layer of protection for our nation's energy security," said Sam Bodman, the US energy secretary.

 

Meanwhile, Bush's health care plan will propose making health insurance taxable income and deductible up to $15,000 a year for families, starting in 2009.

 

The move could raise taxes for as many as 30 million Americans but lower costs for many others.


A US official said the plan would cost $30 to $40 billion in its formative years but eventually pay for itself.