Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, in his speech Thursday night accepting the Democratic nomination for president, pledged to back exploration and production of natural gas if he is elected in November.

“As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves,” Obama, the first African American to win a major party’s presidential nomination, told a packed stadium of more than 80,000 supporters in Denver. He broke somewhat with the Democratic party line by at least conceding that drilling was part of the solution to meet growing energy demand, calling it a “stop-gap measure” rather than a “long-term solution.”

Obama earlier this month said he would be open to allowing drilling off certain coastal states as part of a larger compromise on energy policy (see Daily GPI, Aug. 5). This marked a subtle shift in his position opposing repeal of the 27-year-old congressional ban on oil and natural gas activity in much of the federal Outer Continental Shelf.

Obama said a “clear goal” of his presidency would be to end the United States’ dependence on Middle East oil within 10 years, and to focus instead on the development of alternative energy.

“I’ll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels,” he told the convention. Obama also said he would support investment in clean coal technology and “find ways to safely harness nuclear power,” as well as “help our auto companies [to] retool, so that fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.”

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