Natural gas big winner in Obama SOTU address

While standing by his "all of the above" energy strategy on Tuesday night, President Obama gave a big hat tip to natural gas production.

Obama credited natural gas as one of the top factors in bringing the U.S. closer to energy independence for the first time in decades.

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"The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades," Obama said during his fifth State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

"One of the reasons why is natural gas, if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change," Obama said.

In a fact sheet accompanying the speech, the White House called on Congress to establish "sustainable shale gas growth zones."

"My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities," Obama said.

Obama added he would work with Congress to create jobs by building fueling stations, as the administration plans to propose new incentives for medium and heavy-duty trucks to run on natural gas, or other alternative fuels.

A number of green groups didn't take Obama's praise of natural gas well. While applauding Obama's comments on climate change, the Sierra Club and 350.org blasted the president for promoting the fossil fuel.

"President Obama says he recognizes the threat of climate change, but he sure doesn't act like it," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. "If he was serious, he'd reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and stop promoting fossil fuels like natural gas.

"Fracking isn't a solution; it's a disaster for communities and the climate."

The Sierra Club praised Obama's comments on curbing carbon pollution but blasted Obama's mention of natural gas as the "bridge fuel" to cleaner energy in the fight against climate change.

"We can't drill or frack our way out of this problem," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "Make no mistake — natural gas is a bridge to nowhere."

"If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must look beyond an ‘all of the above’ energy policy and replace dirty fuels with clean energy. We can’t effectively act on climate and expand drilling and fracking for oil and gas at the same time," Brune added.

Not all of the major environmental groups accused Obama of backing down in his commitment to strong climate regulations, choosing not to mention his comments on natural gas.

In a letter signed by five green groups and the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, the organizations applauded the president for reiterating his dedication to cut carbon emissions from power plants.

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