BOULDER CITY, Nevada — President Barack Obama launched a bold defense of his energy policy Wednesday, fending off an election year onslaught by Republican foes who blame him for high gas prices.
“As long as I’m president, we will not walk away from the promise of clean energy,” Obama said during a visit to a solar energy plant in Boulder City, Nevada.
Obama said he had been unable to get an energy and climate change bill through Congress, as he had promised during his campaign, because “some” politicians were bent on preventing public investment in solar energy.
“If these guys were around when Columbus set sail, they’d be charter members of the Flat Earth Society,” Obama joked, stressing that all US energy resources should be tapped at a time when gas prices hover on average above $3.85 per gallon (3.79 liters).
His trip was part of a two-day tour of four states as his reelection campaign heats up ahead of November’s general elections.
Obama was due to next head to oil and gas production fields on federal lands in New Mexico, in order to highlight his administration’s “commitment to expanding domestic oil and gas production.”
But in a jab at Republicans, Obama said “an energy strategy that focuses only on drilling and not on an energy strategy that will free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, that’s a losing strategy.”
He urged Congress to repeal subsidies to oil companies and redirect them instead toward green energy efforts.
Nevada and New Mexico are both considered key battlegrounds ahead of the November 6 ballots, when Obama hopes to score a second four-year mandate ahead of the world’s superpower.
Although unemployment has dropped in recent months, allowing the Democratic president to make gains in polls, rising oil prices triggered by tensions in the Middle East have cast a shadow over the US economic recovery.
Candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have sharpened their criticism of Obama.
Tuesday, frontrunner Mitt Romney reprised his attacks on Obama’s economic policies and cast the general election as a choice between “economic freedom” and “job-killing regulation.”
On Thursday, the president will be in Oklahoma, a state that consistently votes in the Republican column but is the proposed site of a portion of the giant Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Republicans have attacked Obama for rejecting a northern portion of the $7 billion dollar pipeline, which was supposed to link Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline until 2013, allowing Republicans to claim that Democrats have turned down a project supporters insist would quickly create 20,000 US jobs and help bring down fuel prices in the sour economy.
In Oklahoma, Obama is expected to announce a new executive order to identify regionally and nationally significant infrastructure projects, including oil pipelines.
Before returning to Washington, Obama will make a stop in Ohio, a bellwether state in the White House race, to discuss energy research and development.