(WASHINGTON) -- Noting that the situation in the Middle East and in Japan has led to questions about the nation’s energy sources and security, President Obama went to Georgetown University on Wednesday to outline a broad energy plan for the nation. Many of the proposals were not new, but the president came with a few fresh initiatives – and a healthy dose of pushback to Republicans who say that his administration is to blame for rising gas prices.
“Any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we've, quote/unquote, ‘shut down’ oil production -- any claim like that is simply untrue,” the president said.
Obama said that he will encourage offshore oil exploration and production as a way to reduce the nation’s reliance on imports, as long as it’s safe and responsible, something he said he learned from the oil disaster in the Gulf just under one year ago.
He added that the administration is “pushing” the oil industry to take advantage of the” tens of millions” of acres of leases where they’re not producing, by providing better incentives to promote “responsible development.”
The president noted that a long line of presidents before him have promised the same things --mentioning the politics of the moment that tends to takeover when gas prices rise.
“It was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaign,” the president said. “Because we were at the height of political season, you had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians. They were waving their three-point plans for $2 a gallon gas. You remember that, ‘drill, baby, drill,’ and we were going through all that. And none of it was really going to do anything to solve the problem. There was a lot of hue and cry, a lot of fulminating and hand-wringing, but nothing actually happened. Imagine that in Washington.”
The president said that none of the “gimmicks” made a difference amid “the same political gridlock,” that has held the country back for decades. That, he said, needs to change.
“We go back to the same things we've been doing until the next time there's a price spike, and then we're shocked again. We can't rush to propose action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when they fall again.”
The president announced a new goal -- one that he says is “achievable, and one that is necessary,” of reducing America’s importation of oil by one-third over the next decade. President Obama said that cutting the nation’s dependence on foreign oil largely depends on finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing overall dependence with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.
The president said the federal government must lead by example -- and announced that he’s directed agencies to purchase 100 percent alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles by 2015.
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