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Clinton, Obama take on Big Oil

  • Story Highlights
  • Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pitch energy ideas to Pennsylvania voters
  • Clinton: Bush is "too busy" with the Saudis to care about American truck drivers
  • Clinton calls for oil companies to contribute to $50 billion alternative energy fund
  • Obama wants a $150 billion investment over 10 years in clean energy
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From Suzanne Malveaux
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WILKES-BARRE, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- The Democratic presidential candidates are criss-crossing Pennsylvania this week, dropping in at gas stations and truck stops to convince voters they've got the best plan to tackle soaring gas prices and Big Oil profits.

The price of gas is a key issue for Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in Pennsylvania.

Clinton likened herself Tuesday to Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa character, but said the big fight ahead isn't just against her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, but also against the country's oil crisis.

While beating back calls from some of her opponent's supporters to step down, Clinton has taken to lashing out at the Bush administration's oil policy.

"The president is too busy holding hands with the Saudis to care about American truck drivers who can't afford to fill up their tank any longer," she said.

Obama, meanwhile, said Monday a crackdown is needed on oil companies.

"[We] need a president who can stand up to Big Oil and big energy companies and say enough is enough," Obama said Monday.

Clinton and Obama held events a mile apart Monday in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Both focused on energy issues.

"It's affecting the business pretty bad, because as gas prices are higher, the rates of the cabs are higher. And the customers are complaining," a cab driver said.

In Washington Tuesday, top executives from five of the biggest oil companies -- Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips -- were grilled before Congress over their growing profits and corporate tax breaks. Video Watch lawmakers go after oil executives »

Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington state, said to one executive, "If you were going to give awards for taxpayer abuses, this would win the Heisman and the Oscar and the Nobel Prize."

Shell Oil Company President John Hofmeister said the energy supply outlook was "sobering" and the U.S. needs to tackle the energy quandary with programs akin to the Manhattan Project or Apollo moon launch.

Several lawmakers, mostly Democrats, want to take the tax break away from oil companies and use the money to subsidize renewable energy projects. Watch oil executives defend their tax breaks »

Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, slammed the executives for their opposition to eliminating about $18 billion in tax breaks over 10 years amid record profits for the industry.

"Imposing punitive taxes on American companies will discourage the investments needed to safeguard our energy security," said Stephen Simon, senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corp.

The oil industry and the Bush administration argue it is unfair to target the oil industry when tax breaks are available to all manufacturers. Video Watch panel weigh in on oil debate »

Clinton wants oil companies to contribute to a $50 billion fund to invest in alternative energy and for car manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency standards and for the government to tap into its emergency oil reserves.

Obama proposes a $150 billion investment over 10 years in clean energy and an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions over 40 years.

Energy industry experts say the candidates' plans offer little to provide immediate relief, which Obama acknowledged.

"I would be dishonest if I said we've got a lot of short-term answers to bringing down gas prices. I don't think we do," he said.


Attending an International Renewable Energy Conference in March, President Bush said, "America has got to change its habits. We've got to get off oil."

"I've set a great goal for our country, and that is to reduce our dependence on oil by investing in technologies that will produce abundant supplies of clean and renewable energy," Bush said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend's Steve Hargreaves contributed to this report.

All About Gas PricesNational EconomyU.S. Presidential ElectionU.S. CongressDemocratic Party

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