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Obama sets ambitious goal to reduce oil imports
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama yesterday called for a one-third reduction in US oil imports by 2025, reviving a long-elusive goal of reducing America’s dependence on foreign supplies as political unrest rocks the Middle East and gasoline prices rise at home. Tackling an issue that has vexed nearly every US president since Richard Nixon, Obama said the country can’t solve the problem with quick fixes and political gimmicks. But he offered little in the way of new initiatives, relying instead on a litany of energy proposals he’s already called for, including boosting domestic oil production, increasing the use of biofuels and natural gas, and making vehicles more energy efficient.
Obama also embraced nuclear power as a critical part of America’s energy future, despite increased safety concerns following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that severely damaged a nuclear power plant there. He vowed a thorough safety review of all US plants, incorporating lessons learned from Japan, but said nuclear power still holds enormous potential for the US. “We can’t simply take it off the table,” Obama said during a nearly hour-long speech at Georgetown University. Moving the US away from its dependence on foreign oil and toward clean energy technologies was a key part of the domestic agenda Obama outlined in his January State of the Union address. That agenda has since been overshadowed by events around the world, from the uprisings in the Middle East and subsequent US military intervention in Libya to the humanitarian and nuclear crisis in Japan.
But with gas prices on the rise as the president readies his reelection bid, the White House wants to regain its footing on domestic issues before public anger over the spike in energy costs take hold. Gas prices have jumped more than 50 cents a gallon this year, reaching a national average of $3.58 a gallon last week, according to AAA’s daily survey. Republicans have placed the blame for the spike in prices on Obama’s policies, arguing that the administration has been too slow in approving new permits for oil drilling and calling on the president to open up areas along the Atlantic Coast and near Alaska, where drilling its currently banned.
“The problem is that Democrats don’t want us to use the energy we have,” Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday. “It’s enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately.” The president struck back at that criticism during his speech, noting that his administration has approved 39 shallow-water drilling permits since new standards were put in place last year following the Gulf oil spill, and seven new deep-water drilling permits in recent weeks.
“So any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve shut down oil production might make for a useful political sound bite, but doesn't track with reality,” Obama said.
Even if Obama’s efforts can reduce US demand for foreign oil, experts say they’re unlikely to bring down the cost of gasoline, since oil is priced globally and increased demand from China and other developing nations continues to push prices up. Obama acknowledged that he’s far from the first US president who has set out to put the US on a path toward energy independence. (AP)
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