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Obama Wants to Slash Oil Imports, Shift Govt. Fleet to Green Vehicles

Outlines energy policy calling for shift to cleaner fuels.

by on Mar.30, 2011

President Obama discussing energy policy.

President Barack Obama, warning there are “no quick fixes,” outlined a broad energy policy that he hopes will win broad bipartisan support at a time when oil prices have hit their highest levels in three years.

A key goal will be to better access untapped sources of domestic sources of oil and gas even as the nation moves forward on a goal of trimming petroleum imports by a third by 2025, the president declared during a speech today at Washington’s Georgetown University.

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Among other key goals, the government will move to buy only hybrids, plug-ins and other advanced technology vehicles for its vast fleet of 600,000 vehicles by 2015.

“Presidents and politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence but that promise has so far gone unmet,” the president noted.  “That has to change. We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again,” he said.

Since the beginning of the year, oil prices have surged an average 50 cents a gallon and pump prices now top $4.00 in some U.S. markets.  While Obama cautioned there is little he can do to bring down oil prices, considering the global nature of the petro-market, he stressed the need to take action that will help reduce the impact of global events – and improve the environment.

A recent government report revealed that as much as a third of the leases in the Gulf of Mexico have lain fallow, research suggesting that by tapping these assets as much as 11.6 billion barrels of oil could be produced, equivalent to a 2-year supply at current American consumption rates.

Meanwhile, the White House proposal would reduce petroleum imports by more than the 11 million barrels a day imported in 2008.

The president said it was critical to find alternatives to petroleum, including natural gas and bio-fuels.

“We have to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy,” the president stated. “And we have to do it quickly.”

As for the proposed shift to advanced technology vehicles for the huge government fleet, under Obama, various federal departments have already doubled the number of conventional hybrids they use.

A 1992 law offers a broad definition of what qualified as an advanced technology vehicle, however, and so the latest proposal might not only cover compact battery-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, or plug-ins, such as the Chevrolet Volt, but also big SUVs, like a Ford Expedition, capable of running on E85 ethanol.

The government has already said it intends to buy at least 100 plug-in electric vehicles in 2011.

The Administration is expected to also lend support to measures that would provide tax incentives for corporate fleets and individuals switching to CNG-powered automobiles.  A bill that seemed to generate bipartisan support nonetheless stalled in Congress last year.

But whether the president can get both parties to sign on to his proposals remains to be seen.  He is tossing a large carrot to the Republicans and their allies in the oil industry by proposing measures to spur drilling.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnelle, a Kentucky Republican, is not certain to go along with the broader outline of an Obama energy policy.  Among other things, the ranking GOP senator is pressing to bar the EPA from being able to set limits on greenhouse gases, such as CO2.

“The problem isn’t that we need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don’t want us to use the energy we have. It’s enough to make you wonder whether anybody in the White House has driven by a gas station lately,” McConnell said Tuesday.

The GOP stand is in sharp contrast to what is happening in much of the rest of the world, notably Europe, but now even in China, which is also moving to reduce CO2 production after long sidestepping the issue.  As reported, earlier this week, European regulators are considering a proposal that would entirely ban the use of internal combustion-powered automobiles by 2050.  (Click Here for the full report.)

For his part, Obama declared that Republican slogans like, “drill, baby, drill,” aren’t enough.  It’s time to stop being lulled into inaction, he warned.

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