Under political fire from Republicans for high US gasoline prices, President Barack Obama Wednesday announced several new initiatives that are designed to boost the use of cars and trucks that run on electricity, liquefied natural gas and other alternative fuels.
Obama, speaking at a manufacturing plant for Daimler trucks in Mt. Holly, North Carolina, proposed to provide $1 billion in federal funds to help 10 to 15 US communities develop the types of fueling stations and other infrastructure they would need to support a "critical mass" of alternative vehicles.
"To cities and towns across the country… if you make a commitment to buy more advanced vehicles for your communities, we'll help you cut through the red tape an build fueling stations nearby," Obama said.
In a fact sheet distributed to reporters, the White House said the so-called National Community Deployment Challenge would be "fuel neutral," allowing each city or town to decide for themselves what type of alternative-fueled vehicles they want to support.
Obama also said his administration would support the development of up to five regional "LNG corridors" so that on-the road trucks could transport goods "without using a drop of oil."
Chesapeake Energy, the US' second-largest natural gas producer, launched a similar initiative last year to build about 150 new LNG fueling stations across America's 47,000-mile-long interstate highway system. It was not clear Wednesday how — or if — Obama's proposal would dovetail with that plan.
Meanwhile, Obama also used his North Carolina speech to highlight several other transportation-related proposals that he first floated in his State of the Union address earlier this year, such as expanding the scope of an existing tax credit for electric vehicles.
Obama's critics in Washington and elsewhere have scoffed at the president's policies to address high gasoline prices. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's top Republican, said earlier Wednesday that Obama's energy policies "are actually designed to bring about higher gas prices."
Among other things, McConnell blasted Obama for seeking a roll back in billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
"We know these taxes would drive up the price at the pump and send jobs overseas," McConnell said. "If the president wants to drive prices down, he should stop calling for them."