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Obama defends handling of Keystone pipeline

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 3:15 p.m. MDT

In the midst of his prepared comments, Obama was unusually sharp in admonishing a protester who was interrupting his speech. The president told the man that he would read the book he was apparently offering but said: "Show me some courtesy."

For Obama's advisers, rising gas prices pose a threat to his re-election bid because they could undermine the benefits of a payroll tax cut that he made the centerpiece of his jobs agenda last fall — Congress approved the tax cut extension in February — and throttle the economic recovery.

Republicans view rising gas prices as emblematic of Obama's energy record and hope to tag him with the blame even though no president has much control over prices at the pump. Gas prices have risen more than 50 cents a gallon since January.

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, campaigning at a Harvey, La., company that services oil rigs, said Obama's administration should open more federal lands for leases to boost U.S. oil production and revenue for the federal government.

"Here's an opportunity for us in this country to do something about it: increasing jobs, lowering energy prices, decreasing the deficit, all of the things you would think the president of the United States would be for," Santorum said.

Mitt Romney, Santorum's chief rival for the Republican nomination, has labeled Obama's top energy advisers the "gas hike trio," urging the president to fire three Cabinet secretaries because of the high prices.

Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in Washington and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston contributed to this report.

Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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