President Obama speaks at a UPS freight facility in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )
Reporting from Las Vegas — Declaring the United States the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas," President Obama began pushing Thursday for greater use of the fuel resource under domestic soil as he continued to pitch his economic plan on a tour of battleground states.
Speaking to a crowd of United Parcel Service workers at a facility here, Obama said the government should encourage U.S. shipping companies and other large users to reduce reliance on foreign oil to power their fleets.
Tapping natural gas sources in the U.S. could "power our cars and our homes and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way," Obama said. "We, it turns out, are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. We've got a lot of it."
The president rolled out a plan that offers tax incentives for companies that buy natural-gas-powered trucks. He promoted the idea in a visit to a UPS hub because company officials were, he said, among the first to respond to his call for increased use of natural gas vehicles.
"We only have about 2% of the world's oil reserves," Obama told the crowd. "So we've got to have an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy."
Obama made his remarks as part of a five-state tour to promote the economic blueprint he unveiled in his State of the Union address Tuesday. He is selling his energy strategy as an "all of the above" approach that he says would promote the use of domestic sources. After visiting Iowa and Arizona on Wednesday, the second day of the tour took him to Nevada and Colorado. By day's end he was scheduled to travel to another election battleground state, Michigan.
Obama is promoting incentives as one of several proposed changes to the tax code. The changes would require the approval of Congress, including the GOP-controlled House, which most observers think is unlikely to support major initiatives from the president in an election year. But Obama's team believes it will be difficult for Republicans to reject proposals that prove popular with the public, or at least that they run the risk of angering voters if they do.
Some industry advocates argue that the Obama administration hasn't put a high enough priority on expediting fuel projects. Obama recently delayed the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project while developers come up with an alternative route around environmentally sensitive areas.
The president's own jobs council recommended a week ago that the government act quickly on energy projects in the interests of encouraging more of them. Republicans complained this week that Obama didn't address the Keystone XL project in his State of the Union address.
On Thursday, Obama announced that his Interior Department was preparing to open up 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for more energy exploration and development. The lease sale is the final one scheduled as part of a five-year plan for drilling in the central gulf.
Some industry advocates have suggested the administration is holding back offshore drilling by taking its time reviewing permit applications. Administration officials say drilling in the gulf is on a healthy rebound, nearly two years after the BP oil spill.
Later in the day, Obama visited Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., which has tested jets that operate on advanced biofuels.