By Mark Memmott
Saying that the nation needs to "harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy," President Barack Obama just confirmed that he is taking steps to lift a decades-old ban on oil and gas drilling along much of the East Coast and northern Alaska.
"This is not a decision that I've made lightly," Obama said.
"We're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration -- but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources," he added.
The president conceded that:
"There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake."
Obama also announced that his administration is "doubling the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet, even as we seek to reduce the number of cars and trucks used by our government overall."
Update at 11:33 a.m. ET. The president just concluded his remarks. Near the end, he said that:
"Moving toward clean energy is about our security. It's about our economy. And it's about the future of our planet. And what I hope is that the policies that we've laid out -- from hybrid fleets to offshore drilling, from nuclear energy to wind energy -- underscore the seriousness with which my administration takes this challenge. It's a challenge that requires us to break out of the old ways of thinking -- to think and act anew."