With gasoline prices edging towards $4 per gallon and a new military excursion underway in Libya, President Barack Obama took time Wednesday, March 30, to outline his administration's goal to radically reduce U.S. dependence on oil and fossil and fuels.
In a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, President Obama said, "I'm setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary. 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."
In a move that will likely irk environmentalist sections of his coalition, the president called for increased production of oil, including offshore exploration "as long as it's safe and responsible." His plan emphasizes the need to implement safety features to prevent recurrence of the BP oil spill.
He pointed out, however, that the U.S. can neither depend on foreign sources of oil nor will it ever produce enough on its own to cover its needs. Therefore, renewable alternatives are an absolute necessity.
He urged rapid development of sources of natural gas, renewable biofuels (including cellulosic ethanol), as well as the infrastructure to ensure that consumers can access these fuel alternatives.
He is pushing for higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, making breakthroughs in the production of electric vehicles.
In addition to transportation needs, the president called for incentives for building upgrades to reduce home-heating costs.
The president wants to increase the development of clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy. He said that within 25 years he wants to see 80 percent of U.S. electricity come from clean energy sources, including wind, solar, "clean coal," and nuclear power.
This latter point will likely be least convincing for most Americans, but the president emphasized the need to ensure that nuclear energy is safe and secure, promising a comprehensive review of the country's nuclear energy facilities, which create some 20 percent of the electricity used here.
In short, the president called basically for extending the unprecedented new investments implemented under the recovery act.
In support of President Obama's speech, senior administration officials joined with several mayors from across the country on a press conference call Wednesday, March 30, to express support for his stated goals.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters that the administration understands how high gas prices are hitting working families. The solution to high gas prices lies in the U.S. becoming less dependent on oil, which seems to be tied to fluctuations in foreign policy concerns in the parts of the world.
LaHood sugarcoated the issue. "The President wanted to talk about the future rather than the past," he said, preferring to ignore the U.S. role in destabilizing the Middle East in the past decade (at least), which result in the present upward pressure on gas prices. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the national average for a gallon of gasoline stood at about $1.30 per gallon.
Ironically, the Bush administration had erroneously justified the invasion by claiming it would reduce gasoline prices by expanding the supply of petroleum products.
LaHood emphasized the unprecedented efforts on the part of the administration to invest in, research, promote, and develop alternatives to oil. "We're not just going to talk about the problems," he said. "The administration has a plan; it's all hands on deck."
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa optimistically added, "For forty years, presidents have talked about moving away from a reliance on foreign oil. President Obama actually put a plan forward to get us away from an addiction to that foreign oil."
Image: Obama speaks on oil. Courtesy of the White House press service.