(Adds details from Obama's speech, reaction)
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON Jan 28 President Barack Obama told
lawmakers on Tuesday his energy strategy had boosted the economy
and reduced carbon emissions, but he did not address the
question of whether he will approve the politically charged
Keystone XL oil pipeline.
In his annual State of the Union address, Obama touted the
role natural gas had played in cutting U.S. greenhouse gas
emissions and creating jobs.
"The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few
years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy
independence than we've been in decades," he said.
The speech aimed to strike a balance between his
administration's climate goals and championing the benefits
created by one of the biggest oil and gas booms in the history
of the United States.
But one subject not on the agenda was the proposed Keystone
XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, which is still
awaiting a decision from the administration.
Supporters say Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs
and cut U.S. fuel costs by reducing the nation's reliance on oil
imports from nations that are less friendly than Canada. Critics
say it would harm the environment and hasten climate change.
Obama instead highlighted several new and existing measures
to expand clean energy production, chiefly by using executive
powers that are not dependent on action by a divided Congress.
Among the proposals cited by Obama were incentives to
encourage the country's fleet of medium- and heavy-duty trucks
to run on natural gas and alternative fuels.
Those incentives would complement new fuel efficiency
standards the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of
Transportation will issue later this year for heavy-duty trucks,
the White House said.
Obama added he wanted to boost the use of natural gas in
transportation and industry. He said his administration was also
working to develop new environmental standards for oil and gas
drilling on public lands, and to reduce emissions of methane, a
potent greenhouse gas.
'CLIMATE CHANGE A FACT'
Obama also used his speech to reaffirm his commitment to the
Climate Action Plan he launched in June that relies on executive
orders to cut carbon emissions.
"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact," Obama
He said the EPA would continue to work with states and
cities to develop new carbon pollution standards for the
country's existing power plants, the largest source of domestic
emissions. Obama ordered the EPA to deliver that proposal by
June this year.
Environmental groups praised the president's commitment to
act on his climate agenda, but some were wary of his strong
emphasis on natural gas.
"We can't drill or frack our way out of this problem," said
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund,
warned of "profound problems for the climate unless (Obama's)
administration takes action to curb methane releases from the
natural gas industry."
America's Natural Gas Alliance Chief Executive Marty Durbin
told Reuters after the speech that methane emissions were lower
despite the greater use of natural gas in the economy.
"But if we can find areas within the natural gas
distribution chain where we can further reduce methane
emissions, I think every one of those players is willing and
able and already involved in finding those leaks and fixing
them," he said.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Additional reporting by Julia
Edwards in New York; Editing by Ros Krasny, Jim Loney and Peter