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Obama: Growth tied to energy independence

WASHINGTON - Linking economic growth and energy independence, President Barack Obama says shifting the country away from imported oil and toward cleaner forms of energy will help continue a trend that has led to 1.8 million new jobs in the past 13 months.

Mr. Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to promote his ideas for bringing down gasoline prices by decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. A blueprint he outlined in a speech this week calls for increasing domestic oil exploration and production, making cars and trucks more energy efficient and building vehicles that run on alternative fuels or electricity.

Noting that the U.S. doesn't have enough oil reserves to meet its needs, he set a goal of reducing imports by one-third by 2025.

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"By doing so, we're going to make our economy less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices," Mr. Obama said. "We're going to use cleaner sources of energy that don't imperil our climate. And we're going to spark new products and businesses all over the country by tapping America's greatest renewable resource: our ingenuity."

The address was Mr. Obama's third this week on energy independence. Next Wednesday, he plans to visit Gamesa Technology Corp., a Philadelphia-area maker of wind turbines, for a town-hall discussion with workers about building a clean energy economy.

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Oil prices have been rising because of growing demand in China and continued instability in some oil-producing countries in the Middle East. That, in turn, has pushed gasoline prices to new highs. The national average for a gallon of gas hit $3.619 on Friday, the highest price ever for this time of year, according to AAA and other sources. Prices have climbed 23.2 cents in the past month and more than 81 cents in the past year.

Mr. Obama said sparking new products and businesses during a transition away from imported oil will help create jobs. He spoke a day after the government reported that 230,000 private sector jobs were created in March, bringing the number of jobs created in the past 13 months to 1.8 million. The national unemployment rate also dipped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent last month.

"That's a good sign," Mr. Obama said in the address. He recorded it during a visit Friday to a UPS shipping facility in suburban Maryland, where he examined all-electric and hybrid vehicles used by AT&T, Verizon, PepsiCo and other companies.

"But we have to keep up the momentum, and transitioning to a clean energy economy will help us do that," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner focused the weekly Republican message on steps he said the government must take to encourage small businesses to create jobs. Among those steps are continuing to cut spending, blocking tax increases, reducing the bureaucracy and eliminating regulations. Boehner once owned a small plastics and packaging business in Ohio.

Boehner said Congress also needs to pass a bill funding the government through Sept. 30, when the budget year ends, and avoid a shutdown. The government's authority to spend money is set to expire next Friday.

"Washington's inability to get spending under control is creating uncertainty for our job creators," Boehner said. "It's discouraging investment in small businesses and eroding confidence in our economy. To put it simply, the spending binge in Washington is holding our country back and keeping our economy from creating jobs."

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