US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a series of measures on Tuesday to cut US consumption of foreign oil in half by 2025, including encouraging the development of alternative forms of energy.
The senator, who is up for re-election in New York this year and is viewed as a likely presidential candidate in 2008, said that US dependence on foreign oil was posing a threat to the nation.
"Our present system of energy is weakening our national security, hurting our pocketbooks, violating our common values and threatening our children's future," she said in a speech at the National Press Club. "Right now, instead of national security dictating our energy policy, our failed energy policy dictates our national security."
With the energy sector under fire as soaring prices for crude oil and natural gas push industry profits to record highs, Clinton proposed imposing a two-year fee on oil companies to create a US$50 billion fund to help spur research into new conservation approaches and alternative energy sources.
Republicans quickly criticized Clinton, seizing on one aspect of her proposal: a call for expanding the use of ethanol.
Republicans noted that she has frequently opposed measures that would have done just that. They accused her of political opportunism, noting that ethanol is a corn-based fuel additive that is popular in Iowa, the state whose caucus plays a crucial role in the presidential race.
"Senator Clinton's energy policy consists of a unique balancing act involving partisanship, political pandering and yesterday's mistakes," said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Clinton, said in response, "If unfounded partisan attacks could somehow be harnessed as an energy source, then this White House could claim to actually have a plan to address our country's energy needs."
During her appearance, Clinton also addressed the war in Iraq. Asked whether she regretted voting to authorize US President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq, she said, "I regret the way the president used the authority he was given."
Clinton, whose support for the war has caused her problems with the liberal wing of her party, also suggested that the time was nearing for Iraq to take a larger role in its own security.
But the senator, whose speech was interrupted by two antiwar protesters, stopped short of calling for a troop withdrawal.
"I think that once there is a fully established Iraqi government," the senator said, "we have to make it very clear that the Iraqis are responsible for their own security, the Iraqis are responsible for ending the sectarian violence."
"I don't think we are there quite yet," she added. "But we should be there soon."