A day after Republicans signaled possible compromise with the White House on energy issues, President Barack Obama called Thursday for Congress to vote in the coming weeks on ending billions of dollars in subsidies for the oil industry.
“Eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks,” Obama told students at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire. “Let’s put every single member of Congress on record: You can stand with oil companies, or you can stand with the American people. You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean energy future.”
Framing the issue as a major challenge for the students’ generation, Obama said developing a broad-based energy policy incorporating all sources — oil, gas, nuclear, solar, wind and alternatives such as algae — would take years but was essential for the nation’s future economic well-being.
His speech came as gas prices continued to soar around the nation, prompting criticism from Republicans that Obama’s policies failed to fully exploit U.S. resources that would help bring down energy costs.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rejected Obama’s call to end the oil subsidies.
“If someone in the administration can show me that raising taxes on American energy production will lower gas prices and create jobs, then I will gladly discuss it,” McConnell said in a statement. “But since nobody can, and the president doesn’t, this is merely an attempt to deflect from his failed policies.”
On the campaign trail Thursday, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney said Obama sought to take credit for increased U.S. production but should in fact be “hanging his head.”
“He doesn’t get credit for the increase; he instead has tried to slow the growth of oil and gas production in this country, and coal production in this country,” Romney told an enthusiastic audience in Fargo, North Dakota.
Romney and other Republicans say it was policies under the Bush administration that led to today’s increased production, and they criticize Obama for stalling a pipeline from Canada as well as other steps that they say hold back more U.S. output.
Obama devoted some of his speech Thursday to stating what he said were the facts — U.S. production is at its highest level in eight years, with more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined.