Obama pushes natural gas on swing-state tour

President Obama used a speech in the battleground state of Nevada Thursday to promote his commitment to expanded natural-gas production and more broadly sell his election-year economic message.

Obama is calling for new tax incentives to help companies convert their trucking fleets to natural gas, a measure that faces resistance from conservative groups.

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The trip to a UPS facility follows Tuesday’s State of the Union speech that touted the jobs and energy security potential of natural gas — a push that could make Obama’s green movement allies uneasy even though he’s also emphasizing support for renewable technologies.

“We have got to have an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy. A strategy that is cleaner and cheaper and full of new jobs,” Obama said.

“A great place to start is with natural gas,” he said in echoing the GOP call for an “all of the above” energy strategy.

Obama used the trip to UPS — which is taking steps to use natural-gas powered trucks — to pitch tax credits for fleets’ conversion to gas, and the creation of more natural-gas refueling “corridors,” which are akin to the refueling systems now running between Utah and California that he touted Thursday.

"Some of you may not have been following this but because of new technologies, we can now access natural gas that we could not access before in an economic way, we have got a supply of natural gas under our feet that can last America nearly 100 years,” Obama said, noting that “experts” believe natural gas can support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

Obama touted the administration’s “National Clean Fleets Partnership” announced last year that includes UPS, FedEx, PepsiCo and other companies working with the Energy Department to curb oil use in their fleets.

But his call for more tax incentives to spur trucking industry conversions — an idea championed by billionaire energy magnate T. Boone Pickens — faces a rocky road on Capitol Hill.

Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity are campaigning against the bills introduced last year in both chambers, calling them a distortion of energy markets.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sponsored the bill in the upper chamber along with Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). But the measure’s path forward remains uncertain.

“Senator Reid hopes there will be an opportunity to move this important bipartisan legislation to create jobs and improve our energy and economic security. However, that will require bipartisan, bicameral support,” a spokeswoman for Reid said Thursday.

Natural gas provides roughly a fourth of U.S. electric power but remains a very small part of the transportation fuels market. Obama called expanded natural-gas refueling infrastructure crucial.

“Let’s make sure all these new trucks that are running on natural gas have places to refuel. That is one of the biggest impediments,” Obama said. “So we are going to keep working with the private sector to develop up to five natural-gas corridors along our highways.”

Obama this week is also emphasizing his push for expanded oil-and-gas production by touting the next Interior Department Gulf of Mexico oil-and-gas lease sale. More on that here.

Obama’s appearance is part of a campaign-style tour through five swing states on the heels of his State of the Union address. He will be in Colorado later Thursday to discuss renewable energy.

In Nevada Obama touted his State of the Union speech more broadly, reiterating his pitch for his blueprint dubbed “An America Built to Last.”

“Three years after the worst economic storm in three generations, our economy is growing again, our businesses have created more than 3 million jobs,” Obama said. “American manufacturers are hiring again and creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s.”

The president added, however, that “we have got more work to do” on expanding manufacturing jobs and other goals.

He also again pitched the so-called Buffett Rule. “If you make more than a million dollars a year, you should pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent, which, by the way, is lower than you would have been paying under Ronald Reagan,” Obama said.

“Nobody is talking about anything crazy here. On the other hand," he continued, "if you make less than $250,000 a year, which 98 percent of all Americans do, then your taxes shouldn’t go up. I think that’s a fair approach.”

Elsewhere, he warned Republicans not to obstruct the yearlong extension of the payroll tax cut, which expires next month. Republicans are mulling inclusion of provisions including language that would force approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

“Your voices convinced Congress to extend this middle-class tax cut before. I need your help to make sure they do it again. No drama, no delay. Let’s just get this done for the American people and for our economy as a whole,” Obama said.