President Obama on Wednesday will call for a one-third cut in oil imports by 2020, part of a plan he says will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum.
WithÂ rising gasoline prices at home and political turmoilÂ throughout the Middle East, Obama will seek in a speech at Georgetown University to rally Americans â€” and bickering lawmakers â€” behind a program that draws about half of that import cut from energy savings and about half from greater energy production, according to Obama aides who briefed reporters Tuesday.
Many facets of his program will be familiar. The president will propose wider use of natural gas, including incentives to use it to fuel fleet vehicles such as city buses. He will back greater production of biofuels and will vow to establish at least four commercial-scale refineries producing cellulosic ethanol or advanced biofuels within the next two years. He also will pledge to establish higher fuel-efficiency standards for heavy trucks, just as he did for passenger vehicles early in his administration.
Obama will also urge oil companies to make greater use of the federal leases both onshore and offshore to prop up domestic oil output. The oil industry and GOP lawmakers have been loudly complaining about delays in the permitting of offshore drilling in recent months. But an irked administration, which had pledged tougher scrutiny of drilling applications after last yearâ€™s massiveÂ Gulf of Mexico oil spill, fired back Tuesday withÂ an Interior Department report that revived earlier debates about whether oil companies were exploiting the leases they already have.
Obama has made energy a priority since taking office, with the increase in automobile fuel efficiency marking perhaps his greatest impact. As part of the economic stimulus package adopted in 2009, he also won about $70 billion in grants and loan guarantees to promote energy efficiency, advanced batteries for cars and renewable energy. He has said that in addition to energy benefits those monies will create what he calls â€œgreen jobs.â€ But he poured a large amount of effort into winning passage of a cap-and-trade climate bill, which failed.
Obama faces a plethora of obstacles in the push for less reliance on foreign oil. One is the appetite of theÂ U.S. economy. The federal Energy Information Administration forecasts that the United States will import a net of 9.7 million barrels a day of crude oil and refined petroleum products in 2011 and 10 million barrels a day in 2012. Net imports accounted for 49 percent of all U.S. liquid fuel consumption in 2010, down from 57 percent in 2009 primarily because of the drop in consumption during the recession.
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