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Obama, Democrats Pledge Support for Renewables, Natural Gas

While President Obama repeated his pledge for an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy that mingles support for both fossil and renewable resources at the Democratic National Convention last week, the emphasis was on renewables. He also continued his attack on Big Oil, warning he "would not let oil companies write this nation's energy policy."

In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for a second term last Thursday, the president said Democrats were offering the nation a "better path" on energy, one that would continue to focus on efficiency gains, renewable energy and abundant natural gas supplies, and give producers more access for domestic onshore oil and gas exploration, reduce foreign oil imports and cut carbon pollution.

"We doubled our use of renewable energy...In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million b/d, more than any administration in recent history," he told conventioneers in Charlotte, NC, promising to continue those gains.

"We're offering a better path [than the Republicans], a future where we keep investing in wind, solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; [and] where we develop a 100-year supply of natural gas that's right beneath our feet."

"Unlike my opponent [Republican candidate Mitt Romney], I will not let oil companies write this country's energy plan, or endanger our coastline, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers," Obama said. His Democratic administration has refused to allow leasing for oil and gas drilling off the East and West Coast, as well as parts of the Gulf of Mexico and in some Alaska offshore regions. The administration also seeks to cut $4 billion in tax incentives from producers over the next decade.

Natural gas was the one fossil fuel that found favor with Democrats. "We will continue to advocate for the use of this clean fossil fuel [gas], while ensuring that public and environmental health and workers' safety are protected," the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said in its platform on energy. It further stated that "we support more infrastructure investment to speed the transition to cleaner fuels in the transportation sector. And we are expediting the approval process to build out critical oil and gas lines essential to transporting our energy for consumers."

But "harnessing our natural gas resources needs to be done in a safe and responsible manner," the DNC said in the party's national platform, "Moving America Forward." The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency are working on rules to control emissions from oil and gas operations, which would require the disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of unconventional gas deposits (see NGI, May 7).

The United States has become somewhat less dependent on foreign oil in recent years, thanks in no small part to the proliferation in unconventional drilling in the United States, along with higher crude oil prices revitalizing interest in traditional conventional areas such as the Permian Basin. Annual crude oil imports into the United States have declined year-over-year in five of the last six years.

The Democratic energy views contrasted sharply with the Republican plan outlined the previous week, which focused on support for North American oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy and gave only a passing nod to solar energy and other renewables (see NGI, Aug. 27).

Romney in late August unveiled an energy plan, which he said would open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and would make North America energy independent by 2020 -- the final year of his second term in office -- if he is elected this November.

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