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Obama Takes To Nevada And Colorado To Talk Energy, Expanding Drilling In The Gulf

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will double down on his "all-of-the-above" energy strategy on Thursday when he announces the Interior Department's new lease sale to make roughly 38 million acres available for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The announcement comes as part of the president's post-State of the Union trip through Las Vegas and Denver, where he'll expand on the energy blueprint he laid out in his address on Tuesday night. In his State of the Union speech, he vowed "responsible development" of domestic oil and natural gas.

Speaking at a UPS refueling facility in Las Vegas, the president will detail the terms of the June 20 lease from Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which could yield up to 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"Expanding offshore oil and gas production is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America's energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement Tuesday. "The President has made it clear that developing our domestic oil and gas resources is a significant part of this administration's efforts to grow our economy and create jobs. This lease sale is part of our commitment to safe and responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf."

The president is also expected to discuss other natural gas-oriented policies -- including new incentives systems for medium- and heavy-duty trucks running on natural gas or other alternative fuels -- and supporting programs that would convert municipal buses and trucks to run on natural gas. He also will encourage finding new approaches for converting and storing natural gas.

The president has promised to address environmental concerns, outlining stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources and mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species. But Obama's plans will likely still prove discomforting for environmentalists, who watched in dismay as he expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska last fall, less than two years after the BP oil disaster.

BOEM's supplemental environmental impact statement on the drilling, which reportedly considers all the latest information following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, will be published 30 days prior to the lease sale, the last remaining sale for the 2007-2012 offshore development program.

The next five-year program, which is still being finalized by DOI, will open up more than 75 percent of the potential offshore resources available for development by expanding drilling in the Gulf and Alaska, with blocks slated for drilling located between three and 230 miles offshore.

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