Obama Aims To Reduce Foreign Oil Reliance
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
President Obama took the long view today. With gas prices going up and trouble with the nuclear plant in Japan, the president said in a speech that the U.S. must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy. He wants to cut American oil imports by a third over the next decade.
NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on how the president plans to get there.
ARI SHAPIRO: The White House described this event as a pivot away from speeches about Libya and Japan. But President Obama acknowledged that those crises make it important to talk about energy now.
President BARACK OBAMA: Obviously, the situation in the Middle East implicates our energy security. The situation in Japan leaves us to ask questions about our energy sources.
SHAPIRO: America's past is strewn with moments when a global crisis has driven up the price of gas or scared people about the risks of nuclear energy. President Obama said every one of his predecessors, going back to Richard Nixon, has talked about energy independence, and nobody ever manages to do anything about it.
Pres. OBAMA: We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back down.
SHAPIRO: This president often travels the country, speaking at electric car battery plants, wind turbine manufacturers or solar panel factories. Today's speech at Georgetown University tied together many of the proposals from those events. It's not an either/or approach to energy. It's both/and.
Pres. OBAMA: Meeting the goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things. First, finding and producing more oil at home. Second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.
SHAPIRO: Oil industry executives say President Obama has limited domestic energy production by imposing new regulations on drilling. Mr. Obama called that a useful political soundbite that doesn't track with reality, and he also suggested that it's beside the point.
Pres. OBAMA: Even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess, offshore and onshore, it still wouldn't be enough to meet our long-term needs. We consume about 25 percent of the world's oil. We only have 2 percent of the reserves.
SHAPIRO: Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute supports the move to invest in biofuels and clean energy.
Mr. ERIK MILITO (Upstream Director, American Petroleum Institute): But, you know, we have to remember there's 250 million cars on the road. We can convert a lot of them. But at the same time, we're going to need oil and natural gas for many decades to come.
SHAPIRO: Dale Bryk of the Natural Resources Defense Council is optimistic that this time around the promise of reducing foreign oil consumption for clean energy could actually come true.
Ms. DALE BRYK (Director of Air and Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council): This is an area of global competition, and the Chinese and the Germans and the Danes are eating our lunch. And I don't think the American people or American businesses are going to stand for that.
SHAPIRO: And the White House hopes that investing in domestic energy production will have another positive side effect. By creating energy at home, companies create jobs at home, too.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.
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