March 31, 2011

Obama Pledges To Cut Oil Imports By 2025

President Barack Obama pledged to reduce US oil imports by one-third by 2025, saying America had to "get serious" about its energy future.

In a major speech at Georgetown University, the president laid out his blueprint for a secure American energy future, and warned that events like Japan's tsunami and the current Middle East crises made it even more important for the U.S. to shield its economy from rising fuel costs.

Obama's speech coincides with rising oil prices that are threatening to slow the nascent U.S. economic recovery and growing dissatisfaction among drivers over surging gas prices at the pump.

"Today, I'm setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary," Mr. Obama said.

"When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third."

The president has made similar pledges in the past.  During his 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to reduce U.S. oil imports from volatile markets such as Venezuela and the Middle East, from where the U.S. currently imports nearly one-third of its oil.

The president referenced that campaign, a time when rising gas prices became a major issue, saying the problem became overrun with  "slogans and gimmicks" and "outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas."

The U.S. cannot "keep going from shock to trance" on energy, while "hitting the snooze button" when prices fall.

"So here's the bottom line - there are no quick fixes. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy," the president said.

Mr. Obama offered little in the way of specific plans to wean the U.S. off foreign oil, but instead called for a balanced energy policy from carbon, wind, renewable, nuclear and biofuel sources.

Noting that the federal government had already doubled the number of alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet, the president said he was leading by example.  The government has also announced that by 2015 all federal cars must run on alternative, hybrid or electric power.

Mr. Obama said he would press the large oil companies to do more to exploit existing leases, saying the industry was sitting on tens of millions of acres of resources waiting to be tapped.

However, the oil industry says that much of these resources involve punitive exploration and extraction costs, and are requesting that more areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska to be opened for drilling.

Obama described plans to harness new sources of energy, such as natural gas, biofuels and biomass, and highlighted government efforts to reduce energy consumption.

Republicans objected to Obama's approach, saying the president was an incoherent approach to energy while blocking expansion of domestic production, stalling on drilling leases and strangling producers with new regulations.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the president's policies did not match his rhetoric, and that restrictions on offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has led to higher gas prices.

"As we've frequently seen with this administration, what it says and what it does are often two very different things," McConnell said as quoted by the AFP news agency.

McConnell argued that long-term plans to develop alternative energy did little to help Americans struggling today with higher gas prices.

"The guy who's trying to make ends meet wants to know what you're going to do for him today, not 24 years from now," he said.

"We need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don't want us to use the energy we have. It's enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately."

As the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant in Japan unfolds, Obama said that nuclear energy remains an important part of a balanced energy plan, but only under rigorous safety safeguards.

"America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy. It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I'm determined to ensure that it's safe."


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