updated 2/2/2006 8:48:09 AM ET 2006-02-02T13:48:09

President Bush believes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she says she does not want to be president, and he says he does not know what role he will play in picking the GOP presidential nominee in 2008.

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“I think you need to take her at her word that she’s not running,” Bush said in a conversation on Air Force One on Wednesday as he flew to Tennessee for a speech.

“Today I met with her, for example. When I sat down with her, I wasn’t thinking politics, I was thinking about what will I do to continue to keep the pressure on Iran, so that they give up their nuclear ambitions,” Bush said.

The president says he is more focused on this year’s midterm elections.

“To the extent that I am thinking politics, it is to retain the (Republican) leadership of the House and the Senate,” he said.

Oil profits
In a wide-ranging interview, Bush defended the $36.13 billion profit Exxon Mobil Corp. posted in 2005 — the highest ever for a U.S. company. He said the profit reflected the market and that consumers socked with soaring energy costs should not expect price breaks.

“I think that basically the price is determined by the marketplace and that’s the way it should be,” said Bush, a former Texas oil man.

But he added: “There’s also a responsibility for energy companies to continue to invest and improve the ways that the American people can get energy.

“I would very much hope that Exxon would participate in the development of a pipeline out of Alaska, for example, in order to make sure there’s more natural gas available for families and small business owners so the economy will grow,” the president said.

Ethanol push
Bush expressed hope, as he did in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, for cutting oil imports from the Mideast.

“I believe in a relatively quick period of time, within my lifetime, we’ll be able to reduce if not end dependence on Middle Eastern oil by this new technology” of converting corn, wood, grasses and other products into ethanol, he said.

In the State of the Union, Bush set a goal of reducing the U.S. oil imports from the Mideast by 75 percent by 2025.

Bush said his goal is to diversify away from a “hydrocarbon society.”

“I meant what I said last night, that America’s addiction to oil is bad for this country. In order to remain competitive we’ve got to use technology to diversify away from dependence upon oil,” the president said.

“I am told we are close to significant breakthroughs when it comes to the production of ethanol ... and that within six years the development of technology will be able to produce energy on a competitive basis.”

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