November 30, 2020

Obama to Set Goal of One-Third Cut in Oil Imports

The president, in a speech to be delivered at Georgetown University, will say that the United States needs, for geopolitical and economic reasons, to reduce its reliance on imported oil, according to White House officials who provided a preview of the speech on the condition that they not be identified. More than half of the oil burned in the United States today comes from overseas and from Mexico and Canada.

Mr. Obama will propose a mix of measures, none of them new, to help the nation cut down on its thirst for oil. He will point out the nation’s tendency, since the first Arab oil embargo in 1973, to panic when gas prices rise and then fall back into old gas-guzzling habits when they recede.

He will call for a consistent long-term fuel-savings strategy of producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to brew billions of gallons of biofuels and setting new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles. Congress has been debating these measures for years.

The president will also repeat his assertion that despite the frightening situation at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex in Japan, nuclear power will remain an important source of electricity in the United States for decades to come, aides said.

He will respond to members of Congress and oil industry executives who have complained that the administration has choked off domestic oil and gas production by imposing costly new regulations and by blocking exploration on millions of acres of potentially oil-rich tracts both on shore and off.

The administration is not prepared to open new public lands and waters to drilling, officials said, but will use a new set of incentives and penalties to prod industry to develop resources on the lands they already have access to.

The Interior Department on Tuesday issued a paper saying that more than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico and more than half of onshore leases on federal lands are unused. Oil industry officials called the paper a smokescreen to cover the administration’s stingy approach to drilling permits.

“This is an effort to distract the American people from rising gas prices and the fact that the administration has been delaying, deferring or denying access to our oil and natural gas resources here at home,” said Erik Milito, the director of exploration policy at the American Petroleum Institute. “Lease sales have been delayed or canceled, and this year, for the first time since 1957, we may not have a single offshore lease sale.”

White House officials indicated that Mr. Obama was turning to energy issues after a period of intense focus on turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East. He will link them by saying the United States cannot be secure as long as it depends on potentially unstable monarchies and dictatorships for a large part of its daily petroleum diet. The reduction in oil imports he has set as a target — roughly three million barrels a day over 10 years — corresponds roughly to current import levels from the Middle East and Africa.

Presidents since Richard M. Nixon have made this point, and American oil imports have continued to rise, except when slowed by recession.

Republicans in Congress have grown increasingly vocal about the administration’s energy and environment policies, saying they discourage domestic oil and gas development and impose heavy costs on industry in a period of economic angst. On Tuesday, House Republicans introduced three bills to reverse the administration’s offshore oil drilling policies, calling for vast new tracts of offshore territory to be opened to deep-water drilling and for speedier approval of drilling permits.

On the Senate floor, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, denounced the president for a variety of alleged energy sins, including telling Brazilian officials last week that the United States would be an eager consumer for its offshore oil.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Mr. McConnell said.

“Here we’ve got the administration looking for just about any excuse it can find to lock up our own energy sources here at home,” he said, “even as it’s applauding another country’s efforts to grow its own economy and create jobs by tapping into its own energy sources.”

The administration imposed a moratorium on most deep-water drilling activities in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 rig workers and sent nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department wrote new safety and environmental rules for offshore drilling and officially lifted the moratorium in October.

The department has now issued seven permits for activities that were halted under the suspension, with 12 other deep-water permits pending. An additional 24 permit applications have been returned to applicants for more information.

Mr. Obama is also expected to renew his call from the State of the Union address to increase the percentage of electricity produced from so-called clean sources to 80 percent from the current 40 percent by 2035. The president’s definition of clean energy includes renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, as well as nuclear, natural gas and coal with carbon capture and storage, an as-yet-unproved technology.

On Friday, the president will appear at a United Parcel Service depot in Landover, Md., to talk about ways to make commercial truck and bus fleets more fuel-efficient and to make greater use of domestically produced natural gas in transportation.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b2aee37c93b0b798441865037d01c95b

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