Jun 2, 2010 9:14 PM by Chris Welty
PITTSBURGH (AP) - President Barack Obama pressed Congress to
scrap billions in oil company tax breaks and pass legislation to
help the nation kick a dangerous "fossil fuel addiction"
Wednesday, trying to channel disgust over the worsening oil
disaster into a force for clean energy.
Seeking opportunity in a crisis, Obama argued for action in
Congress as crews struggled into a seventh week to contain BP's
mangled oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. He urged lawmakers to shift
the tax-break money toward clean-energy research and approve a
major energy bill, now stalled in the Senate, that would slap a
price on carbon emissions.
"Our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our
national security," he declared. "It will smother our planet. And
it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk."
Among the costs, Obama said in a speech at Carnegie Mellon
University, is the risk that comes with drilling deep below
offshore waters to find oil. He received sustained applause when he
said, "We have to acknoissions and auction allowances to polluters. A bipartisan effort
on a different version of climate and energy legislation in the
Senate has been in the works for months but has no clear path
The president offered his most determined promise to date.
"The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find
them in the coming months," Obama declared.
He added, "The next generation will not be held hostage to
energy sources from the last century."
Tucked in there was a reminder from the president that he does
support more offshore drilling at home. Indeed, Obama was viewed by
environmentalists as proposing giveaways to the oil industry when
he announced a limited expansion of offshore drilling in March.
Since the Gulf explosion, Obama has pulled back on some of those
plans and ordered an investigation into the spill. In his speech,
he made sure to say that any new drilling would be just one part of
an energy strategy, and only as a short-term bridge toward a clean
Obama has consistently championed alternative energy sources and
adopted energy efficiency programs and standards for cars and
The president has been getting increasingly aggressive in his
proposals to raise taxes on oil companies since taking office last
But he had little success before the BP oil spill.
Obama proposed about $31 billion in tax increases on oil and gas
companies in his first budget proposal, released shortly after
taking office. After none were enacted, he proposed nearly $37
billion in tax increases in the budget plan he released in
Congress showed no appetite for the tax increases until the
House passed a bill last week that would increase the per barrel
tax on oil from 8 cents to 34 cents to help finance a federal fund
to clean up spills in the nation's waterways. That tax hike, now
before the Senate, would raise nearly $12 billion over the next
Overall, Obama's economic speech struck a deeply partisan tone
as a potentially pivotal midterm election looms in November. He
repeatedly sought to frame Democrats as the party in favor of
reshaping the economy and holding powerful interests accountable,
while he cast Republicans as trying to obstruct him by saying no.
Here, too, Obama tried to connect with people struggling with
economic insecurity - and perhaps likely to blame the party in
power, Democrats. He contended that Democrats see the value of a
safety net while Republicans favor such little government help that
they leave people "on their own."