Obama says US must shift cars, trucks off of oil

By Nedra Pickler

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 15 2013 2:26 p.m. MDT

The proposal is modeled after a plan submitted by a group of business executives and former military leaders who are committed to reducing U.S. oil dependence. The group, called Securing America's Future Energy, or SAFE, is headed by FedEx Corp. Chairman and CEO Frederick W. Smith and retired Marine Corps Gen. P.X. Kelley.

Creation of the trust would require congressional approval at a time of partisan divide over energy issues. Republicans have pushed to expand oil and gas drilling on federal land and water, while Obama and many Democrats have worked to boost renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

There were signs agreement may be possible. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has called it "an idea I may agree with."

Murkowski, senior Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, did not fully endorse the plan, which is similar to one she has proposed to use revenue from drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands that previously were off-limits to energy production to pay for research on new energy technologies.

White House officials said the president's proposal would not require expansion of drilling to federal lands or water where it is now prohibited. Instead, they are counting on increased production from existing sites, along with efficiencies from an administration plan to streamline drilling permits. The government collects more than $6 billion a year in royalties from production on federal lands and waters.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Obama needs to expand drilling to get his support.

"For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically," the spokesman, Brendan Buck, said. "Unfortunately, this administration has consistently slowed, delayed and blocked American energy production."

Obama's push for the energy trust came as the Environmental Protection Agency released a report Friday indicating that fuel economy standards rose last year by 1.4 miles per gallon, the largest annual increase since EPA started keeping track. The agency said the improvement was due to better availability of high-performing cars and more options for consumers.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers suggested that rather than encouraging research on fuel-efficient cars, the government should focus on making diverse fuels more available and improving transportation infrastructure.

Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nedrapickler and Matthew Daly at https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC. Daly reported from Washington.

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