President Barack Obama says shifting the U.S. away from imported oil and toward cleaner forms of energy will add momentum to a trend that has led to 1.8 million new jobs in the past 13 months.
Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to promote his ideas for bringing down gasoline prices by decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. A blueprint he outlined in a recent speech calls for increasing domestic oil exploration and production, making cars and trucks more energy efficient and building vehicles that run on alternative fuels or electricity.
Noting that the U.S. doesn't have enough oil reserves to meet its needs, he set a goal of reducing imports by one-third by 2025.
"By doing so, we're going to make our economy less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices," Obama said. "We're going to use cleaner sources of energy that don't imperil our climate. And we're going to spark new products and businesses all over the country by tapping America's greatest renewable resource: our ingenuity."
The address was Obama's third in recent days on the issue. On Wednesday, he travels to the Philadelphia area to visit an arm of the Spanish company Gamesa, maker of giant turbines that generate electricity from wind.
Oil prices have climbed because of increasing demand in China and instability in some oil-producing countries in the Middle East. That, in turn, has pushed U.S. gasoline prices to new highs. The national average for a gallon of gas hit $3.619 on Friday, the highest price ever for this time of year, according to AAA and other sources. Prices have climbed 23.2 cents in the past month and more than 81 cents in the past year.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell agreed with Obama on encouraging more domestic energy production. But he accused the administration of stifling that industry's growth by canceling drilling leases, halting drilling off the Gulf Coast after last summer's oil spill and increasing permit fees.
"As a result, thousands of U.S. workers have lost their jobs, as companies have been forced to move their operations overseas. That must end," the Kentucky Republican said. "We must do more to find energy here at home, and the jobs that go with it."
Obama said that sparking new products and businesses during a transition away from imported oil will help create jobs. The government reported Friday that 230,000 private sector jobs were created in March, bringing the total number created in the past 13 months to 1.8 million. The national unemployment rate also dipped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent last month.
"That's a good sign," Obama said. He recorded the address at a UPS shipping facility in suburban Maryland, where he examined all-electric and hybrid vehicles used by AT&T, Verizon, PepsiCo and other companies.
"But we have to keep up the momentum, and transitioning to a clean energy economy will help us do that," Obama said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, focused his party's weekly message on steps he said the government must take to encourage small businesses to create jobs. Among those steps are continuing to cut spending, blocking tax increases, reducing the bureaucracy and eliminating regulations. Boehner once owned a small plastics and packaging business in Ohio.
Boehner said Congress also needs to pass a bill funding the government through Sept. 30, when the budget year ends, and avoid a shutdown. The government's authority to spend money expires next Friday.
"Washington's inability to get spending under control is creating uncertainty for our job creators," Boehner said. "It's discouraging investment in small businesses and eroding confidence in our economy. To put it simply, the spending binge in Washington is holding our country back and keeping our economy from creating jobs."