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Obama, McCain Clash Over Energy

Energy and high fuel prices continue to be a major issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama now says he would tap into the national strategic petroleum stockpile to help drive down the price of gasoline, even though Obama has opposed the idea in the past. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Senator Obama gave a speech on energy in the Midwest state of Michigan, which is expected to be a competitive battleground state in the general election campaign with Republican John McCain.

Obama proposed that the government sell 70 million barrels of oil from its strategic reserve to help lower the price of gasoline for consumers, even though Obama has opposed such moves in the past.

Obama also accused Senator McCain of being part of the failure of the United States to wean itself off of foreign oil during the past three decades.

Obama expressed support for limited new offshore oil drilling as part of an overall energy package that would include developing alternate sources of energy, an approach McCain also favors.

"We cannot simply pretend, as Senator McCain does, that we can drill our way out of this problem," said Barack Obama. "We need a much bigger and much bolder set of solutions. We have to make a serious, nationwide commitment to developing new sources of energy, and we have to do it right away, right now."

Senator McCain favors a wider expansion of offshore drilling and expanding the use of nuclear power as an energy source in the United States.

McCain called on Obama to urge the Democratically-led Congress to come back into session and address the energy issue.

"I call on Senator Obama to call on Congress to come back into town and come back to work, come off their recess, come off their vacation and address this energy challenge to America and do not leave until we do," said John McCain.

Public-opinion polls show the economy and high fuel prices are at the top of the list of voter concerns this year.

Recent surveys also suggest Americans may be backing away from some environmental concerns and increasingly favor new offshore drilling.

Peter Brown is a pollster with Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Quinnipiac has been conducting a series of polls in the key states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

"What we are finding is that although voters still would prefer that the nation's energy problems be solved by new, renewable kinds of energy sources-wind, solar, biomass-they have now come to the conclusion that maybe oil and natural gas will be part of the solution for quite a while and therefore, many of them now favor drilling that they did not favor before they were paying $4 gasoline."

Other issues expected to figure prominently in this year's campaign include the war in Iraq, the overall struggle against terrorism and the rising cost of health care.