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Obama Says Energy Compromise Is Necessary

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), shown at a National Urban League conference, said accepting some expanded oil drilling is necessary to further long-term clean-energy goals.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), shown at a National Urban League conference, said accepting some expanded oil drilling is necessary to further long-term clean-energy goals. (By Jae C. Hong -- Associated Press)

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shut down the chamber and sent lawmakers home for a five-week August recess Friday rather than have a vote on expanded drilling. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has been slightly less ardent, and signaled on Friday that he will entertain using the Gang of 10 deal as grounds for compromise when Congress returns in September.

The Senate package would repeal tax breaks for oil companies that Democrats have opposed, fund more research into fuel efficiency, help consumers buy plug-in hybrid vehicles or convert existing hybrids to plug-ins, and extend tax breaks for renewable electricity sources for eight years. States would have the final say in approving drilling plans on the Outer Continental Shelf, no closer than 50 miles from the shore.

President Bush chastised Democrats on Saturday for refusing to allow a vote on whether to lift the federal ban on offshore oil drilling before lawmakers departed for their summer recess.

"To reduce pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil, especially oil produced here at home," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Obama complained Saturday on a campaign swing through Florida that McCain's onslaught of negative attacks last week -- including an assertion that Obama had "played the race card" -- had diverted attention from issues such as the energy crisis. He conceded allegations he made that Republicans would try to "scare" voters by raising his appearance and name did allude to race, but he said it was the McCain campaign that transformed general comments about his unusual biography into a "racially incendiary remark."

"I don't think it's accurate to say my comments have nothing to do with race," he told reporters here. But, he elaborated, "Here's what I was saying, and I think it should be undisputed: I don't come out of central casting when it comes to presidential races, for a whole range of reasons. I'm young, new to the national scene. My name is Barack Obama. I'm African American. I was born in Hawaii. I spent time in Indonesia. I do not have the typical biography of a presidential candidate."

From that, he said, the McCain campaign has tried to portray him as "risky."

"In no way do I think John McCain's campaign was being racist," Obama concluded. "They're cynical. I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues."

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds also tried to tie together the back-and-forth over race with the burning issue of energy.

"The only 'cynical' candidate in this election is Barack Obama, who has opposed every element of John McCain's comprehensive energy plan," Bounds said.

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