Obama: Oil states must prepare for cleaner future

President Obama hosted governors, including Gov. Walker. Photo: Pete Souza/White House.)
President Obama hosted governors, including Gov. Walker. (Pete Souza/White House.)

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President Obama told the nation’s governors today that oil and coal producing states should prepare for a shift to cleaner energy.

“I want to be honest with you — if those states with extractive industries are not currently preparing for the fact that the energy mix is going to continue to change over time, you’re probably doing a disservice to your constituencies,” he said.

Obama hosted the National Governors Association at the White House today.

At the meeting, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker pleaded for more access to drill on federal land, pointing to the state’s massive budget deficit.

“We got problems,” Walker told the president. “We have an oil pipeline that’s empty.  I need to fill it up.  There’s a lot of oil up there, and we’re going to get it safely.  And thank you for some of your positions you’ve taken, but we need to put oil in that pipeline.”

Obama told him it’s a matter of balancing values.

“We have encouraged exploration in some areas.  There are some areas that are just real sensitive,” he said.

Obama described the federal government’s role as helping states “maximize your production, minimizing your pollution, but also preparing you for the fact that 20 (or) 30 years from now, there’s going to be a higher mix of clean energy and a lower mix of traditional fossil fuels.”

Obama took the opportunity to again extol at length the beauty he saw when he visited Alaska last summer.

“It fills up your soul being up there, just the landscape and the expanse,” he said. “The sheer scale of everything is remarkable, and the people could not have been more gracious and wonderful.”

Obama has proposed a new oil tax of $10.25 per barrel to fund low-polluting transportation system. Republican leaders, though, say Congress will never approve it.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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