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Obama seeks one-third drop in oil imports

  |   March 30, 2011 at 5:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama called Wednesday for cutting oil imports by a third as Republicans said he is blocking offshore oil drilling.

In a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, Obama said, "We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security. ... The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out."

He set the "reasonable, achievable and necessary" goal of reducing oil imports by a third within a decade.

"We boast one critical, renewable resource the rest of the world cannot match: American ingenuity," the president said.

Obama said his administration's "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future" is based on increasing domestic oil production, developing alternative energy and boosting efficiency.

He said he is "encouraging offshore oil exploration and production -- as long as it's safe and responsible."

Obama also said he is telling federal agencies to purchase only alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles by 2015.

One critic, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said Tuesday the administration has created a "'drill nowhere new' plan" when the nation needs a "'drill smart' plan."

He introduced three bills that would force the administration to sell more offshore leases and issue drilling permits within a set time frame.

"These bills will directly reverse Obama administration actions that have locked up America's vast offshore oil and natural gas resources," Hastings said.

Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told reporters later a Department of Interior report released Tuesday shows about 70 percent of offshore leases and 50 percent of onshore leases remain idle.

Zichal said the administration would explore incentives, "so that when a company is going out proactively and developing aggressively on their leases, there are additional opportunities we have to extend those lease sales."

Hastings and other Republicans plan to introduce other energy bills to encourage faster development of onshore drilling, coal, renewable energy and hydroelectric power, Hastings promised. Similar measures will likely be filed in the Senate this week, Republicans said.

The Senate is to vote Wednesday on halting the first-ever nationwide rules to control greenhouse gas emissions, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

As a follow-up, Obama plans to visit a United Parcel Service shipping facility near Washington Friday to view energy-efficient vehicles operated by UPS and other major U.S. companies, including AT&T Inc., FedEx Corp., PepsiCo Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., the White House said.

At UPS in Landover, Md., Obama will "deliver remarks to the companies' employees," the White House said.

Obama reiterated his State of the Union proposal to adopt a national "clean energy" standard requiring 80 percent of electricity in the United States be generated from clean energy sources by 2035.

The administration defines clean energy as nuclear power, natural gas and clean coal, plus renewable sources such as wind and solar. "Clean coal" is an umbrella term used to describe technologies that may reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas that arise from the burning of coal for electrical power.

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Topics: Doc Hastings
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