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Obama Touts Energy Policy In Western Swing States


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. As the price of gasoline continues to climb, the Obama administration is defending its energy policies. President Obama kicked off a two-day tour today. He is visiting four states that are known for their energy resources, and three of them are likely to be hotly contested in the November election. First stop: Nevada, where, today, Mr. Obama visited a giant solar eclectic facility. He spoke about his support for alternative energy companies.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When I took office, I said why not give these businesses some access to public lands that aren't otherwise being utilized? At the time, there wasn't a single solar project in place on public lands - not one. Today, thanks to some great work by Ken Salazar, we've got 16 solar projects approved.

CORNISH: NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president on his energy tour and joins us now. Hello there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So the president spoke today about solar power. But solar ventures have caused him some problems in the past, right?

HORSLEY: Yes. It's something of an Achilles' heel for the president, and the Republicans would love to use that heel to trip him up. You remember, of course, the notorious Solyndra case where half a billion taxpayer dollars were spent trying to bankroll a company to get a breakthrough solar technology. Unfortunately, that technology was undercut by cheaper solar panels from China. Solyndra went bankrupt. Employees lost their jobs. Taxpayers lost money. But President Obama says he has not lost faith in solar power. In fact, the administration says it's doubling down in that area, and Mr. Obama says he wants to see more subsidies for big power stations like this one.

CORNISH: At the same time, solar energy still seems to be a fraction of the total energy mix, right?

HORSLEY: That's right. The president's stressing what he calls the all-of-the-above energy portfolio. Today, he's also going to visit a drilling field in New Mexico that produces crude oil. The administration likes to stress that crude oil production is at an eight-year high, although the GOP argues that's in spite of administration policy not because of it. Tomorrow, Mr. Obama will be visiting an advanced research facility in Ohio. He argues that there's no silver bullet for high gas prices, so you have to pursue all different kinds of supply and efficiency. And over the long term, that's the way to address high gas prices.

CORNISH: OK. So Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio. I mean, back in 2008, Mr. Obama won all of these states. Tell us a little bit about his prospects this year.

HORSLEY: That's right these are all deeply purple states, and Mr. Obama is likely to have a fight on his hands as he seeks reelection in these states. And that political map gives you an idea of what this trip is really all about. Mr. Obama is trying to reassure voters that he takes their concern with high gas prices seriously even if there's not much he can do in the short run to address them. Now Republicans, of course, have tried to capitalize on rising gas prices. They've argued that the president's policies had failed. And the fact that the president is spending two important days on the road to answer those GOP attacks shows you just how important his political advisers think this issue could be.

CORNISH: Lastly, Scott, Mr. Obama will also visit Oklahoma, not exactly a political battleground. What's in it for him there?

HORSLEY: No. Oklahoma is solid Republican territory, so it doesn't stand out on a lot of political maps. But if you draw a map of the nation's oil pipelines, Cushing, Oklahoma, where the president goes tomorrow, is Grand Central Station. That's where a lot of the pipelines converge, and there's a big storage facility. Right now, there's a glut of oil in Cushing. So Mr. Obama will be talking about his support for building the southern stretch of the Keystone pipeline to take some of that oil down to the refineries on the Gulf Coast. Not to be confused with the northern stretch of the Keystone pipeline going into Canada, which Mr. Obama famously blocked, at least temporarily.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley traveling with the president on a two-day, four-state energy tour. Thanks so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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