* Obama says must overhaul U.S. energy policy this year
* Obama says 'we will not rest' until oil well is plugged
By Jeff Mason
FREMONT, Calif., May 26 President Barack Obama
pressed for an overhaul of U.S. energy policy on Wednesday,
seeking to harness outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to
move the country away from its dependence on foreign fuels.
Obama, still fresh from a policy victory over healthcare
reform and nearing one on financial regulation, appeared to be
shifting his focus to another top policy goal: boosting
domestic renewable energy and fighting climate change.
On a trip to California, which included a night of
fundraising for a Democratic senator, Obama toured a Solyndra,
Inc solar panel manufacturing plant and then spoke about how
the oil disaster showed the need for a new energy approach.
"The spill in the Gulf, which is just heartbreaking, only
underscores the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources,"
Obama told a crowd of several hundred.
The Obama administration faces increasing pressure to show
progress in the BP Plc (BP.L) oil spill that is wreaking
environmental disaster in the Gulf and along the coast.
Obama said Americans understood the need for change and the
devastation from the Gulf spill highlighted how perilous the
process of extracting oil had become.
"Just think about it. Part of what is happening in the Gulf
is that oil companies are drilling a mile under water before
they hit ground, and a mile below that before they hit oil.
"With the increased risks, the increased costs, it gives
you a sense of where we're going. We're not going to be able to
sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can't sustain
it," he said.
Though the president has tried to use the spill to
galvanize support for his energy overhaul, a bill to do that is
anguishing in the U.S. Senate.
Making things more difficult, a key plank of that policy --
expanding offshore drilling -- has been thrown into question by
the spill. That expansion was seen as a key sweetener for
winning Republican support for the bill.
Obama repeated on Wednesday that he hoped to have an energy
and climate bill passed this year. Lawmakers and many analysts
think that is unlikely.
He has come under growing political pressure to stop the
spill itself. He defended his administration's handling of the
disaster and said the government would not rest until the well
was plugged and the cleanup completed.
"We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment
is repaired and the cleanup is complete," he said.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)