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White House Turns Cautious on Offshore Drilling


With the offshore oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico worsening, the White House is offering a much more cautious response to the president's previous endorsement of offshore drilling.

Officials previously said the accident was not causing any second thoughts about the policy. But today, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said this: "We take very seriously the concerns that people have and the issues that are underway today in the cleanup and the fire."

Asked if the president would continue to push for offshore drilling, Burton said, "Well, I'm not going to get in front of what the investigation (into the oil spill) produces."

Over the past two days, the president has visited two alternative energy sites - an Iowa wind power plant and a Missouri bio-fuels facility -- without mentioning offshore sources.

Today, Mr. Obama used a speech at a Macon, Missouri ethanol plant to promote "renewable homegrown fuels," wind and solar power as well as next generation batteries. Offshore drilling did not make the cut in today's presidential list of energy initiatives.

The administration has proposed allowing oil and gas drilling for the first time in large zones off the East Coast and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

In his March announcement the president said, "the bottom line is this: Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we are going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy."

Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent for CBS Radio News. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.