Washington Extra – Energy epiphany

March 30, 2011

If you thought you’d heard it before, you have.

President Barack Obama said today the United States must reduce its dependence on oil. And even he acknowledged this is not a new idea. OBAMA-ENERGY

“Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. And every president since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil,” he said at Georgetown University.

“Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet,” Obama said.

As all of those presidents found, it is no small task to wean the world’s largest oil consumer and importer away from that addiction — especially since U.S. domestic oil production peaked in the early 1970s.

So why will this time be any different?

Obama has set a goal that he says is “reasonable,” “achievable,” and “necessary,” of reducing oil imports by one-third over a decade.

(Just a reminder that even if he wins a second term, Obama will be out of office in the middle of that decade, so fulfilling that goal would be left to another administration).

Goals are good, but actions matter. Will Obama be The One to reduce U.S. oil dependence? He thinks so.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama authorizes secret support for Libya rebels
President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters. Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”, within the last two or three weeks, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with the matter. Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and the White House declined immediate comment.

For more of this exclusive story by Mark Hosenball, read here.

Obama calls for deep cuts in U.S. oil imports

President Obama proposed to cut oil imports by a third over 10 years, setting an ambitious goal that eluded his predecessors as high gasoline prices threatened to undermine the economic recovery. In a speech that was short on details on how to curb demand, Obama did not pretend there were any speedy measures to lower fuel costs. “There are no quick fixes…And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy,” he said.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and Patricia Zengerle, read here.

U.S., Colombia talks making ‘good progress’

The United States and Colombia are moving toward an agreement in talks on anti-union violence in Colombia that has blocked approval of a free trade deal, the top U.S. trade official said. “We’re making very good progress,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told the Reuters Latin American Summit. “We’re very encouraged with what we’ve heard from the Colombians thus far.”

For more of this interview by Doug Palmer, read here.

Decision looms over U.S. troops at Mexican border

The Obama administration is weighing whether to keep hundreds of National Guard troops on the U.S. border with Mexico to help clamp down on violence, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. Violence on the American side of the border has steadily declined over the last few years and seizures of drugs, weapons and cash have increased in part due to the additional troops and resources on the border, she said.

For more of this interview by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here.

Shutdown threat recedes as U.S. budget talks resume

The threat of a government shutdown seemed to recede as budget talks resumed in Congress and aides from both parties said they were more optimistic that a compromise can be found. Though lawmakers continued to trade jabs in public, aides said privately that they had a greater sense of optimism they could reach a deal before temporary government funding expires on April 8.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.

Bearing olive branch, Warren braves U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Elizabeth Warren went before some of her sharpest critics to defend the independent funding of the financial consumer watchdog agency she is setting up for the Obama administration. At a Chamber of Commerce event attended by scores of financial industry lobbyists keen to rein in her agency, Warren said she is a strong supporter of business competition and that she believes she has that in common with the chamber.

For more of this story by Kevin Drawbaugh, read here.

JPMorgan’s Dimon slams US CFTC on swaps crackdown

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, lashed out at efforts by regulators to police the $600 trillion swaps market, in which his bank is a big player. New regulations from the CFTC “would damage America,” he said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on capital markets. “Corporate America is in very good shape. It’s well-financed, it’s well-funded,” he said. “The consumer is spending … housing is better than it was.”

For more of this story by Kevin Drawbaugh, read here.

First Republican presidential debate postponed

The first scheduled debate of the 2012 Republican presidential nominating race has been postponed until September because of a lack of candidates. “Although there will be a long and impressive list of Republican candidates who eventually take the field, too few have made the commitment thus far for a debate to be worthwhile in early May,” said John Heubusch, director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

Consumer group urges US ban or warning on food dyes

The color dyes used to brighten cereals, snacks and drinks help make some children hyperactive and should be banned or at least carry a warning, critics told government advisers. Artificial blue, green, orange, red and yellow food colorings show up in everything from PepsiCo’s Gatorade, Cheetos and Doritos to Kellogg’s Eggo waffles and Kraft’s Jell-O desserts. The FDA has long deemed the dyes safe but is reviewing recent studies of the colors’ effects on children’s behavior at the request of a consumer group.

For more of this story by Lisa Richwine, read here.

For a factbox on popular products made with dyes, click here.

What we are blogging…

As Tea Party cranks up heat on Congress, poll shows public support waning

The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on Congress — just as a new poll finds that support for it has waned. Members of the Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts. While the Tea Party helped Republicans win power in last year’s elections, nearly half of all Americans now have an unfavorable view of it, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey.

For Thomas Ferraro’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Japan urges calm over food export fears

Japan called on the world not to impose “unjustifiable” import curbs on its goods as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to arrive on Thursday, the first leader to visit since an earthquake and tsunami damaged a nuclear plant, sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama delivers remarks on his energy strategy)

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