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Obama cites Gulf oil spill in alternative energy push

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Obama cites Gulf oil spill while promoting alternative energy in California
  • Obama's remarks came two weeks after key senators introduced energy reform bill
  • Sem. Harry Reid's emphasis on immigration reform raises doubts about bill's future
  • Bill includes expanded offshore drilling but gives states more leeway

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama used the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to renew his pitch for alternative energy Wednesday, arguing that the unfolding environmental disaster "gives you a sense of where we're going" without comprehensive reform.

The federal government is "going to bring every resource necessary to put a stop" to the spill, the president said during a visit to a solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, California. "We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired, and the cleanup is complete."

But, he added, "a lot of damage has been done already. The spill in the Gulf, which is just heartbreaking, only underscores the necessity" of seeking alternative fuel sources.

A failure to enact comprehensive energy reform, he argued, would pose a threat to national security and the economy, as well as the environment.

Obama's remarks came two weeks after Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, introduced a sweeping energy and climate change bill intended to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while reshaping the energy sector.

The House passed its own energy bill last year, and Obama has said he backs the efforts by Kerry and Lieberman to move the issue forward in the Senate. The president asked for Senate GOP cooperation on the issue during a closed-door meeting Tuesday with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has indicated he wants immigration reform to take priority, and the politics of midterm congressional elections in November raises questions about the the possibility of gaining final approval this year of such major legislation as energy reform.

Reid's position caused a potential Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to drop out of the talks with Lieberman and Kerry on drafting the proposal.

The proposal addresses a range of energy issues, including expanded nuclear power production, incentives for the coal industry to seek cleaner methods, money to develop alternative energy sources and programs to help U.S. industry in the transition to a low-carbon system.

On climate change, the measure seeks escalating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades that match the levels set as goals by the Obama administration and contained in the House bill. Among other things, the proposal calls for emissions reductions from 2005 levels of 17 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050.

The Senate proposal includes expanded offshore oil drilling as part of a strategy to increase domestic production. However, provisions strengthening the ability of states to prevent more drilling off their coasts were added in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

CNN's Tom Cohen and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.