Pumping up for fight with Republicans: Obama drills into critics as he promotes 'all of the above' energy policy

  • Obama flies to New Mexico to defend his administration's record on drilling
  • Republicans have made pipeline key issue in presidential election


President Barack Obama fought back against Republican critics yesterday saying he planned to hurry through approvals for the southern portion of a controversial oil pipeline.

Mr Obama said he was directing federal agencies to speed up plans to build the Keystone XL pipe, in a move designed to ease political pressure on the White House as the industry frets about a glut of oil trapped in the region.

Republicans, who have made the pipeline a key issue in the presidential election, called the announcement a stunt.

Suffering from voter anger over high gasoline prices, Obama used a stop at a huge solar panel facility in Nevada to accuse his rivals of ignoring renewable fuels that could help wean the United States off foreign oil.

He said: 'I'm not going ... to cede our position to China or Germany or all the other competitors out there who are making massive investments in clean energy technology.'

Sunny outlook?: Surrounded by solar panels President Obama gives a speech about power after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility yesterday

Sunny outlook?: Surrounded by solar panels President Obama gives a speech about power after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Boulder, Nevada, yesterday

Obama is on a two-day, four-state trip to promote plans to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, deflecting Republican attacks while branding critics as 'members of the flat earth society' for defending tax subsidies to oil companies.

Obama and his advisers have painted Republicans as solely focused on oil and gas drilling to the detriment of other energy sources, while mocking Gingrich - without naming him - for promising to bring gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon.

The President then flew to Carlsbad, New Mexico, an area with more than 70 active drilling rigs, to defend his administration's record on drilling, standing in front of an oil rig for a brief speech to promote an 'all of the above' energy strategy that Republicans deride.

Power play: With an oil rig lurking ominously over his shoulder President Barack Obama delivers a speech about oil and gas policies during a visit to a drilling site in Boulder yesterday.

Power play: With an oil rig lurking ominously over his shoulder President Barack Obama delivers a speech about oil and gas policies during a visit to a drilling site in New Mexico yesterday

After going to Oklahoma today, Obama finishes his trip in Ohio - a critical battleground state in the November election - at a university that does advanced energy research.                 

'We're drilling all over the place,' Obama said. 'That's one of the reasons we've been able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil every year since I took office.'      

Republicans cite Obama's support for a now bankrupt solar panel company, steadily rising gasoline prices and the rejection of the northern section of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada as evidence that his energy policies are not working.

Today, the president is tackling critics of his decision to block the Keystone pipeline head on, going to Cushing, Oklahoma, where TransCanada Corp plans to begin building the southern leg of the project, which Obama supports.

Slick operator: U.S. President Barack Obama walks past a pumpjack on his way to deliver remarks on energy independence at Maljamar Cooperative Association Unit in New Mexico

Slick operator: U.S. President Barack Obama walks past a pumpjack on his way to deliver remarks on energy independence at Maljamar Cooperative Association Unit in New Mexico

All smiles: President Barack Obama arrives in Roswell, New Mexico, with stetson wearing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

All smiles: President Obama arrives in Roswell, New Mexico, with stetson wearing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Drilling in: President Obama's motorcade drive past oil rigs during his visit to oil and gas production fields located on federal lands outside of Maljamar

Drilling in: President Obama's motorcade drive past oil rigs during his visit to oil and gas production fields located on federal lands outside of Maljamar

In the Cushing oil hub, an oil surplus has been growing because of a lack of pipelines to get rising crude supplies from the U.S. Midwest and Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.         

White House officials said Obama will announce a new order directing the U.S. government to expedite the permitting process for the southern leg of the project.        

Republicans said the move was not enough.       

'It's kind of like the Bridge to Nowhere in that it doesn't connect to Canada,' Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney said, referring to the Cushing portion of the pipeline.   

'If (Obama's) poll numbers go a little lower of course we'll be able to get the other half of it done. So let's get those poll numbers down so we can get our pipeline and get some energy in here.'         

Romney and fellow Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have made energy a key component of their pitches to become their party's nominee to take on Obama, a Democrat, on Nov. 6.               

The phrase 'drill, baby, drill' became a popular Republican rallying cry during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Shining: President Obama saw the nearly 1 million solar panels at the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada. The facility is the largest photovoltaic plant in the U.S.

Shining: President Obama toured some of the one million solar panels at the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada. The facility is the largest photovoltaic plant in the U.S.