President Barack Obama has ordered steps to speed up the expansion of oil pipeline projects in the United States, including a portion of the planned Keystone pipeline. The president spoke as he concluded a two-day trip to Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma - highlighting his energy policies amid national concern about high gasoline prices.
For Obama's latest remarks on his so-called "all-of-the-above" energy policy that includes traditional and alternative fuels, the White House chose Cushing, Oklahoma, and a backdrop of huge oil pipes awaiting installation.
Cushing is the starting point for the 780-kilometer southern half of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that is to carry oil from tar sand fields in western Canada to U.S. refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama announced Thursday that the White House has directed federal government agencies to speed up reviews of pipeline projects related to the southern section.
"Today, I am directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority. To go ahead and get it done," he said.
The White House order also applies to other pipeline infrastructure projects across the country. Trans-Canada, the company building the Keystone XL pipeline, intends to complete the Oklahoma to Gulf of Mexico section next year.
The pipeline has been caught up in election year politics. Obama ordered that the northern portion be subject to further review amid environmental concerns.
Republican presidential contenders say the president is suppressing domestic oil and gas production, and encouraging high gas prices.
Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticized Obama's policies at a recent campaign rally in North Dakota.
"He [Obama] instead has tried to slow the growth of oil and gas production in this country, and coal production in this country," said Romney.
On Thursday, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, told reporters that Obama's remarks in Oklahoma were driven by election year politics.
"The president is down here in Oklahoma, taking credit for a part of the pipeline that is going to go through the normal process. It has already gotten its approvals. And this idea that the president is going to expedite this will have no impact on the construction of this pipeline," Boehner said.
In Oklahoma, Obama struck back at critics who say he has not done enough to encourage U.S. oil production.
"Anybody who suggests that somehow we are suppressing domestic oil production isn't paying attention. They are not paying attention," said Obama.
When he speaks about energy, the president underscores the importance of alternative and clean sources, such as ethanol and wind power, and greater automobile fuel efficiency to reduce America's dependence on imported oil.
In Oklahoma, he said gasoline prices are determined by a global oil market influenced by events including tensions in the Middle East, including those involving Iran.
The president is expected to increase the frequency of such cross-country trips, emphasizing what he says are policies that are effective in helping the U.S. economy and creating jobs.