Under fire for painfully high gas prices, President Barack Obama next week is scheduled to head to Cushing, Oklahoma, to highlight his support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline--well, part of it, anyway.
The Obama administration blocked the overall project, which was to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, on environmental grounds. But it also endorsed plans to build the section of the pipeline that is to stretch from Cushing to the Gulf, which analysts say will help ease a bottleneck and get more oil--and therefore ultimately more gas -- to market.
Republicans have pounded away at the administration's energy policy, using the high cost of filling up as shorthand for the incumbent's failure.
"Interesting choice for a President who just successfully lobbied Senate Democrats to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline jobs bill. Will he be touting the fact that his plan to raise taxes on energy manufacturers will increase the price of gas, disadvantage the smaller independent companies, and send American jobs overseas?" a spokesman for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Don Stewart, said by email.
The White House has shot back that domestic oil production is at an all-time high while Obama mocks his critics as having simplistic solutions to the complex problem of high gas prices. And the president himself has embraced the language Congressional Republicans use to describe their approach, saying he favors an "all of the above" energy strategy.
The trip to Oklahoma may suggest that the White House has realized there is political danger: A Quinnipiac University public opinion poll found 73 percent of respondents had heard of the Keystone project and 64 percent said they favored giving the pipeline the green light. Other polls taken in 2012 have found roughly half of respondents say they think that presidents have tools at their disposal to bring down gas prices.
Obama's Wednesday-Thursday will take him to Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Ohio (all, except Oklahoma, are up for grabs in the presidential election).
The president will "highlight his Administration's all of the above energy strategy, including his focus on continuing to expand responsible oil and gas development, increasing the fuel economy of the vehicles we drive which will save families money at the pump, supporting renewable energy sources, and investing in infrastructure and research and development, all of which play a central role in increasing our nation's energy security," the White House said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Obama will visit a solar power plant in Boulder City, Nevada; oil and gas production fields on federal lands outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico. On Thursday, he will visit the pipeline site, and then visit energy-related research facilities at Ohio State University in Columbus.
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