Thank you, Jim, for your generous introduction. Im so pleased to be here today with Jim Holden of Daimler-Chrysler; John Rintimaki [RIN-tuh-ma-kee] of Ford; Harry Pearce of General Motors; and Alan Reuther of the United Auto Workers.
A few years ago, I was talking with a group of college students, and I marveled about the amazing changes taking place throughout our economy in the auto industry as much as in our high-tech industries. In fact, I pointed out, if todays cars made the same advances as todays computers, a Cadillac would get 100,000 miles to the gallon -- and cost about 50 cents.
Then one of the students in the front row said: Sure, but it would be about this big. [hold fingers apart]
The cars you see behind us may have a bit more leg room than that. But they are revolutionary: a giant step forward for the American auto industry -- for our nations ability to reduce its dependence on foreign oil -- and for the prospect of a stronger economy and a cleaner environment at the same time.
Thats precisely what we had in mind when we joined with our leading auto makers seven years ago, to create the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. Our goal was to work with Detroit to come up with vehicles up to three times more efficient than what we had then -- with no sacrifice in performance, safety, or cost. In fact, this partnership was designed to make our auto industry even more competitive in world auto markets.
We understood that while we absolutely must take steps to increase energy-efficiency, reduce pollution, and stem the tide of global warming, these challenges have to be met primarily by industry. Thats why we never tried to pick or direct the technologies.
Instead, we created an open competition -- so the best minds in industries, universities, and our national labs could go to work, with all their talent and with no ideas barred. Some of the most valuable exchanges took place informally. For example, Tipper and I brought researchers from the auto, aluminum, steel, and oil industries to our home, to meet with government and university scientists. A lot of them had been working on the same issues for years, but had never met or compared notes.
The past seven years have seen a new research partnership, and remarkable breakthroughs. They have given us building materials that are lighter, stronger, and better-engineered. They have given us the new technology that is in the cars behind us which combines gas and electric power to increase fuel efficiency.
Today, for the first time, we look forward to a date when remarkable new technologies like this will be moving from research labs to showrooms and dealerships across the country. These leading auto makers believe that within four years, cars with far greater fuel efficiency will be mass-produced, and ready for purchase by the American people.
Were also moving closer to the day when Americans can buy cars with new fuel cell technology that is likely to quadruple todays fuel efficiency. These fuel cells are powered by hydrogen which means that the only emission from these cars is water. They create no greenhouse gas emissions, and could cut our nations total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. At the same time, the versions demonstrated at this years auto show not only get over 100 miles per gallon -- they can drive for 500 miles without re-fueling.
These breakthroughs are critical to our prosperity and our future.
First, energy-efficient cars will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Thats essential for our national security but its also important to American families and motorists.
Right now, millions of Americans are paying rising gas prices. The administration has been working very hard to encourage the OPEC nations to increase oil production. And OPECs members have now announced that they will increase production over the next several months, to provide a greater balance between oil supply and demand. As both Republican and Democratic leaders have said, that is the best way to reduce prices at the pump in the near-term. But we need to push even further and were going to continue to monitor the worlds oil markets very closely in the coming months.
At the same time, with all the promise of new fuel-cell technologies, America does not permanently have to over-depend on foreign oil producers. Right now, we import half the oil we use and unless we take action, that proportion will grow to 60 percent in the next decade. By investing in these energy-efficient cars and technologies by encouraging their purchase and their use we can cut Americas reliance on foreign oil, which will mean lower prices at the gas pump, not just in the near-term, but in the long-term.
Thats good news for families and commuters across this country. And its also is a message that will be clearly understood in the capitals of the oil-producing nations. I think our friends in the Middle East should know that we intend to be customers, not addicts. Americans will never end our love affair with the automobile -- nor should we. But it is crucial that we use the newest technologies to keep control of our economic destiny.
There is a second benefit to these new technologies. Forward-looking business leaders like those who are here today know that if we make the right investments, we dont have to choose between a clean environment and a strong, growing economy. Today, our environment is cleaner than it has been in a generation and we have entered the longest period of economic growth in our entire history. In fact, after fourteen years of trailing Japan, America has now led the world in car and truck production for six years in a row.
Now we must lead the world in the emerging market for more fuel-efficient cars -- and vehicles of all kinds.
That is why I am pleased to announce today that starting next year, we will broaden this research partnership -- to focus on how we can use these new technologies to produce cleaner and more fuel-efficient SUVs and light trucks as well as cars.
And there are steps we can take right now to help build a market for this new generation of vehicles. We have proposed a tax credit of up to $4,000 for anyone who buys a car or truck with advanced technologies that increase energy efficiency. This simple, affordable tax cut can help reduce American oil dependency, while spurring the demand for these new vehicles which will ultimately lower their cost and lead to even greater efficiencies. I urge Congress to pass this measure into law this year so the tax credits are in place before the vehicles come onto the market.
This is truly a mountaintop moment for America. We are strong and prosperous. Our automotive and related industries which employ about one out of seven Americans are leading the world. I believe we have to use this moment, to make the investments that will keep our progress and prosperity going, far into the future. By reducing our dependence on foreign oil; by reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and by positioning the American auto industry as the world leader in a crucial new market in this new economy the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles can help to keep our economic engine humming for decades to come. Thank you.