AUBURN HILLS (AP) – President Bush traveled to suburban Detroit yesterday for a firsthand look at technology that would help meet his stated goal of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Jess Cox
President George Bush arrives at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

Bush toured the United Solar Ovonics plant in Auburn Hills, which makes electricity-generating solar panels, after visiting a Milwaukee company researching next-generation batteries for electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles.

The parent company of United Solar Oronics also works on hydrogen fuel cells to power autos.

“Roof makers will one day be able to make a solar roof that protects you from the elements and at the same time powers your house,” Bush said. “The vision is this – that technology will become so efficient that you’ll become a little power generator in your home, and if you don’t use the energy you generate, you’ll be able to feed it back into the electricity grid.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm praised Bush for recognizing United Solar’s development of renewable-energy technology but said she also reminded him of the importance of the century-old automotive industry to the state.

“I briefly, briefly got a moment to greet him and say thank you for highlighting this great Michigan company, which is an example of a wonderful future for Michigan,” the Democratic governor said in a teleconference with reporters.

“Obviously, we want to be the alternative energy capital of America, . (but) I also said to him not to forget about our great automotive industry.

“He said, ‘I can’t make your automakers profitable.’ I said, ‘Yes, but don’t forget about fair trade policies.’ And then he was moving on. So it was very brief.”

Michigan has been hit hard by a sluggish economy, in part of because of the auto industry’s woes. The state’s December unemployment rate, 6.7 percent, was one of the highest in the nation.

Detroit-based General Motors Corp. lost $5.6 billion in North America last year, while Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. lost $1.6 billion. DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group, also based in Auburn Hills, reported a $1.8 billion profit for 2005.

Granholm said she would repeat her call for tough enforcement of trade policies during this weekend’s National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Democrats and Republicans alike, she said, are “demanding we tear down the (trade) walls with other countries and make sure our products have no barriers to entry.”

Both Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature, meanwhile, have introduced a flurry of bills aimed at energy conservation or reducing dependence on imported oil. Some of the proposed legislation seeks to boost Michigan’s economy in the process.

Granholm raised awareness of the issue in last month’s State of the State address. She said Michigan, home of the automobile, had a “patriotic duty to be the state that ends our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

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