WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says it’s time to roll back “billions of dollars in tax breaks” for oil companies and use the money for clean energy research and development.
Obama made the comments Wednesday in prepared remarks for a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
He said the catastrophic Gulf oil spill shows the country must move toward clean energy by embracing energy efficiency, tapping natural gas and nuclear power and eliminating tax breaks for big oil.
Obama said that the Gulf spill “may prove to be a result of human error – or corporations taking dangerous shortcuts that compromised safety” – but that deepwater drilling is inherently risky and America cannot rely solely on fossil fuels.
He also vowed to make a new bid to push energy legislation through Congress, saying the US oil “catastrophe” showed America could no longer be hostage to fossil fuels.
Obama signaled a political effort to pivot from the disastrous impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to future climate change and energy policy, in an advance copy of remarks he was due to deliver in Pittsburgh later in the day.
“The only way the transition to clean energy will succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future — if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed,” he said.
“The only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution,” Obama said, noting that the House of Representatives had already passed a climate change bill, which had become stalled in the Senate.
“The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,” said Obama, who is increasingly under political siege over his handling of the BP oil spill.
“I will make the case for a clean energy future wherever I can, and I will work with anyone from either party to get this done.
“We will get this done. The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century.”
Prospects for the energy bill in the Senate remain uncertain, following the collapse of a bipartisan effort to pilot it through the chamber in the run-up to crucial mid-term elections in November.
Some experts question whether the year-long battle to enact health care reform drained the kind of political capital Obama will need to get the bill through the Senate in a highly polarized political environment.