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Obama Promotes Energy, Tax Proposals on Cross-Country Trip

US President Barack Obama speaks about American energy and liquefied natural gas at a UPS facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 26, 2012.

US President Barack Obama speaks about American energy and liquefied natural gas at a UPS facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 26, 2012.

President Barack Obama Thursday continued his three-day cross-country trip reinforcing major themes of his State of the Union address. He used remarks in the western state of Nevada to discuss his proposals for boosting development of U.S. natural gas and energy reserves.

In Las Vegas, the president chose for his remarks a UPS company facility that used money from his $787 billion economic stimulus three years ago to construct a public liquefied natural gas fueling station.

Addressing the nation Tuesday, he proposed steps to further develop U.S. natural gas and oil reserves, and investments in alternative energy sources, emphasizing that this must be done safely while protecting the environment.

The administration announced it is opening a more than 150,000-square-kilometer area in the Gulf of Mexico for lease, which the government estimates contains nearly 31 billion barrels of oil and 134 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement estimates the available amount of unrecovered oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico could result in the production of one billion barrels of oil and about 113 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The administration says the land for lease is located about five to 370 miles off the coast of the southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Drilling leases will be auctioned off in June.

Obama said the United States is moving in the right direction away from reliance on foreign oil imports, but he repeated the call in his State of the Union address for an "all-out" strategy to develop every source of American energy.

"We have got to have an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy. A strategy that is cleaner, cheaper and full of new jobs," said Obama.

The president said he has directed his secretary of energy, Steven Chu, to launch a new competition to encourage U.S. scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to come up with new breakthroughs in natural gas-powered vehicles.

Opposition Republicans in Congress, and Republican candidates seeking to replace Obama in the White House, have called his proposals insufficient. They sharply criticized his recent decision to reject a proposal pipeline to carry natural gas from Canadian tar sand fields to the southern U.S. state of Texas.

At every stop on this three-day five-state tour, Obama also has re-played other major themes of his State of the Union address, calling for more fairness in the U.S. economy, and proposing that wealthy Americans pay more in taxes.

He is setting the stage for the expected next big battles with Republicans over extending a payroll tax cut for Americans through this year, and ending tax cuts that were supposed to be temporary when passed by Congress under former president George W. Bush.

Obama said repairing the U.S. fiscal mess will require "tough choices" beyond cutting government spending and inefficiencies, and he fired back again at Republicans suggesting that he is using the tax issue to wage "class warfare."

"We don't shy away from financial success, we don't apologize for it," Obama said. "But what we do say is when this nation has done so much for us, shouldn't we be thinking about the country as a whole?"

Obama's remarks later Thursday at an Air Force base in Colorado focused on proposals to boost renewable energy through billions of dollars in tax incentives for clean energy industries.

The five states on the president's post-State of the Union address trip - Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan - are important political "swing states" he has visited frequently, and hopes to win against a Republican challenger in this November's presidential election.