Obama, in a speech just now in New Hampshire pushing back on GOP criticism over rising gas prices, prodded Congress hard to hurry up and vote on eliminating subsidies for Big Oil:

Right now, four billion of your tax dollars — four billion — subsidize the oil industry every year. Four billion dollars. These companies are making record profits right now. Tens of billions of dollars a year. Every time you fill up your gas tank, they’re making money. Every time.

Does anyone really think Congress should give them another four billion dollars this year?

Of course not. That’s outrageous. It’s inexcusable. And I am asking Congress to eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks. Let’s put every single Member of Congress on record: You can either stand up for the oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people. You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean energy future.

So I’m asking everyone here today, and anybody watching at home: Let your Members of Congress know where you stand. Will you do that?

Highlighting oil company subsidies paid for by the taxpayer — while highlighting their profits — is obviously about diverting public anger over rising gas prices at a time when Republicans are attacking Obama’s energy policies (Keystone XL, for instance) over them. But this is about something more. As Dave Roberts noted, Obama has now given several speeches on clean energy, suggesting he sees it and oil subsidies as part of a broader winning campaign strategy.

Roberts argued the other day that this is a good “wedge issue” for Dems that appeals to independents who aren’t in thrall to the Fox-Limbaugh feedback loop:

The fact is, overwhelming majorities of Americans — across party, age, and regional lines — support clean, modern energy. A poll conducted by ORC International in November found that 77 percent of Americans, including 65 percent of Republicans, believe that “the U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar, and energy efficiency technologies.” Last February, a Gallup poll offered a list of actions Congress might take. The most popular option, with an incredible 83 percent support, was “an energy bill that provides incentives for using solar and other alternative energy resources.”...

Americans know that clean energy is the future.

There’s another way this plays in the campaign. One key audience for the push for clean energy is college-educated white professionals in places like Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. That demographic — key to Obama’s success at flipping those states to the Dem column in 2008 — is growing in parts of the west and new south, which could be pivotal to Obama’s chances at reelection despite expected losses in the Rust Belt.

These voters may be inclined to heavily factor in the two candidates’ visions for the future in making their pick for president — as opposed to only voting on the economy — so here’s another area where the Obama team hopes a sharp contrast between the two parties plays in his favor.