As oil spills, Obama touts alternative energy - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

As oil spills, Obama touts alternative energy

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President Obama looks at a solar panel as he is given a tour of Solyndra by Executive Vice President Ben Bierman, left, and Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, at Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif. President Obama looks at a solar panel as he is given a tour of Solyndra by Executive Vice President Ben Bierman, left, and Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, at Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif.

FREMONT, Calif. (AP) — President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the "heartbreaking" oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico underscores the urgent need for alternative fuel sources to feed the United States' energy needs.

Notable for a president who has proposed expanding offshore drilling, Obama said that the kind of deepwater drilling used by the rig that exploded five weeks ago is risky and costly. He didn't say he opposes the method but noted the danger in having to go down a mile to hit seabed and then drill another mile to find oil.

"With the increased risks, the increased costs — it gives you a sense of where we're going," he said. "We're not going to be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can't sustain it."

Facing increased skepticism over the government's handling of the devastating spill, Obama said his administration won't rest until the well that's leaking millions of gallons of oil is shut and all the damage repaired. But Obama warned that it could be months before the leak is fully contained, and said it's no certainty that the "top kill" procedure being attempted Wednesday to cap the well would work better than previous efforts.

"If it's successful — and there's no guarantees — it should greatly reduce or eliminate the flow of oil," Obama said. "There are other approaches that may be viable."

Obama was scheduled to travel to Louisiana Friday to assess the spill, which has confounded experts in the government and at BP, the oil company that owns the lease.

The seemingly unstoppable gusher is fouling marshes, wildlife and beaches. Beyond the environmental catastrophe, it is posing political problems for his administration.

The White House is being criticized even by Democrats for not acting more aggressively in the spill. The administration argues that government officials aren't just watching from the sidelines, while acknowledging there's only so much the government can do directly. Obama could suffer politically if his administration is seen as failing to stay on top of the problem or not working hard to find a solution.

On Thursday, Obama is expected to propose tougher oversight of rig inspections and drilling permits when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar delivers the results of a 30-day review of offshore drilling safety.

Obama said that his administration is "going to bring every resource necessary" to the task of plugging the leak.

"Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the people on the Gulf Coast," the president said.

Speaking at a northern California company that manufactures solar panels, Obama said that moving to an energy strategy more dependent on renewable sources of fuel would create jobs and secure America's economic future.

The president has long said renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, will play a vital role in the nation's future. But he has also moved to expand offshore drilling, recognizing that the U.S. dependence on oil will continue for many years, and the political reality that more drilling could help him win Republican support for a broad-ranging energy bill.

Announced in March, the offshore expansion allows drilling from Delaware to central Florida, plus the northern waters of Alaska. Exploration could begin 50 miles off the coast of Virginia by 2012. He also wants Congress to lift a drilling ban in the oil-rich eastern Gulf, 125 miles from Florida beaches.

The spill has called those plans into question. The White House has said no new drilling will occur until the causes of the accident are thoroughly examined.

Obama toured and spoke at Solyndra Inc. His remarks about the oil spill were just a small part of a speech focused on the benefits of expanding the nation's clean energy sector. He is asking Congress for $9 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, a request that would be tacked onto a multibillion-dollar spending bill for Afghanistan and other programs.

The White House says Solyndra is one of the most successful investments made as part of the president's $826 billion economic stimulus. The company received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department last year to help build a new manufacturing plant, a project that now employs 1,000 workers.

The company estimates the construction project could create up to 3,000 jobs, and as many as 1,000 permanent jobs when the facility opens.

 

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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