Obama Unveils Energy Initiatives In Las Vegas

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama began laying out his "all-of-the-above" energy strategies in a campaign-styled stop in Las Vegas on Thursday, expanding on the energy blueprint he first described in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

After facing an onslaught of attacks from Republicans for his energy policies, the president appears to have stolen their lines, pledging to expand drilling and increase other forms of domestic energy production as a way to create more American jobs.

"We got to have an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy -- a strategy that is cleaner and cheaper and full of new jobs," Obama said, speaking at a UPS refueling facility in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Obama used the trip to announce his Interior Department's June lease sale, which will open up roughly 38 million acres available for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. He also announced the opening of a new natural gas corridor between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, which will grant trucks running on natural gas a convenient way to refuel. The administration will keep working with the private sector to develop another five natural gas corridors along American highways, the president said.

Obama's comments come as Republican presidential hopefuls in Florida prepare to face increased scrutiny for their positions on energy security and environmental regulation. And, while the president has insisted that he is still in governing mode, not campaign mode, his ramped-up efforts around domestic oil production come after much Republican criticism of his energy policies, particularly of his recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite projections of disastrous impacts on the climate, conservatives have argued Keystone XL would help make Americans less dependent on oil from the Middle East.

The power of that argument isn't lost on Obama, and he is at some pains to underscore that breaking America's dependence on foreign oil is something his administration has been working on for some time, and with some success.

"For decades, Americans have been talking about how do we decrease our dependence on foreign oil," he said to hearty applause in Las Vegas. "Well, my administration has actually begun to do something about it."

U.S. crude oil production increased from 5.1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Over the next 10 years, the EIA predicts continued development of tight oil, extracted from rock formations using hydraulic fracturing. That continuation, in combination with the ongoing development of offshore resources in the Gulf of Mexico, will push domestic crude oil production to 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020, a level unseen since 1994.

Obama's rhetoric on expanding domestic fossil fuels could prove discomforting for environmentalists, who watched in dismay as he scrapped smog regulations and expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska last year.

Already Sarah Chasis, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Ocean Initiative, is out with a statement on the perils of expanding offshore drilling just two years after the worst oil spill in U.S. history and with out any comprehensive reforms in government oversight.

But of course, there's something in Obama's "all-of-the-above" strategy for the environmentalists, too.

The president has vowed to incentivize manufacturers to make energy upgrades, as well as to green the carbon footprint of the nation's military. He announced on Tuesday that the Department of Defense will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history, with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes per year.

"Some technologies don't pan out; some companies fail," the president said, in a conspicuous reference to Solyndra, the bankrupt solar company that benefited from a government loan program. "But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy ... I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here."

Next, the president will travel to Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., where he'll continue to detail his energy agenda.