August 6, 2008

Obama Calls for Energy Conversion: In Visit to Ohio, Democrat Says Foreign Oil Addiction is Big Threat

By Colette Jenkins, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Aug. 6--AUSTINTOWN TWP. -- U.S. Sen. Barack Obama continued on Tuesday to present his proposal for the nation's energy crisis, saying in Northeast Ohio that the plan can translate into new manufacturing jobs.

The Democratic presidential hopeful told a supportive audience of more than 2,500 people at the Austintown Fitch High School gymnasium that "we need a people plan" that will create jobs and free America from its dependence on foreign oil.

"Our addiction to foreign oil is one of the most urgent threats that we've ever faced," Obama said.

Obama said U.S. dependence on petroleum is fueling the higher gas prices that have cost jobs and strained businesses. Internationally, reliance on oil causes instability that encourages terrorism, higher food prices and famines and contributes to global warming and rising oceans.

"Breaking this cycle of addiction will take a transformation," he said.

Obama said his New Energy for America plan, which he unveiled Monday in Lansing, Mich., will help families strapped by sudden spikes in gasoline and natural gas prices.

He said the payoff from investments in renewable energy sources and hybrid automobiles made in America will be renewable-energy jobs in Ohio and across the nation.

The Illinois Democrat dismissed U.S. Sen. John McCain's energy plan as a "political answer" rather than a "real solution." He said the Republican's proposal will result in oil companies getting billions more dollars, consumers continuing to pay high prices at the pump and America staying in the same cycle of dependence on oil.

Obama took several jabs at the Arizona senator, saying he represents "four more years of the same failed policies."

The characterization resonated with Josh Colucci, 27, of Boardman, who has supported Obama since the primary elections. Colucci said he is most impressed with Obama's challenge to the American people to unite.

"Obama's not your typical old guy in Washington," Colucci said. "He doesn't reduce issues to little buzzwords. He explains the complexity of issues. He encourages us to put aside our differences, have a sense of duty and hold politicians accountable."

Colucci said Obama's plan is the best solution to the energy crisis he has seen or heard.

Obama's new energy proposal included two shifts from his past positions. It calls for tapping some of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to relieve prices at the pump. It also accepts limited new offshore drilling for oil, if done in an environmentally safe way and as part of a bipartisan energy compromise.

Obama promises that his plan will reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050; improve energy efficiency 50 percent by 2030; and set America on a path to oil independence.

He repeated his commitment to families, saying he would give every working family a $1,000 energy rebate that would be paid for with the record profits of the oil companies.

After laying out his energy plan, Obama shifted to a town-hall format in which he took questions about education, the treatment of veterans, term limits for politicians and infrastructure for interstate, high-speed, lightweight rail travel.

Both Obama and McCain are emphasizing solutions to the nation's energy woes, seeking an advantage in polling before their respective national nominating conventions.

After his campaign stop in Austintown, Obama headed to Berea, with a quick stop at an Edinburg Township fruit stand in Portage County.

"I won't pretend that the goals I've laid out are easy to achieve," Obama told his supporters in Austintown. "But I will say these goals are possible."

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or [email protected]


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