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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Put end to oil industry tax breaks, Obama says

President Obama said Saturday that Congress should kill tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and help develop alternative sources of energy.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president said he expected Congress to consider in the next few weeks ending $4 billion in tax subsidies, a move he has failed to persuade lawmakers to make during his term. He said the vote would put them on record on whether they “stand up for oil companies’’ or “stand up for the American people.’’

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“They can either place their bets on a fossil fuel from the last century or they can place their bets on America’s future,’’ Obama said.

Industry officials and many Republicans in Congress contend that cutting the tax breaks would lead to higher fuel prices, raising costs on oil companies and affecting their investments in exploration and production. The measure is considered a long shot, given that Obama could not end the subsidies when Democrats controlled Congress earlier in his term.

Republican presidential candidates have accused Obama of delaying drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico and in a national wildlife refuge in Alaska and faulted him for not advancing the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. They have also criticized policies pursued by the Environmental Protection Agency as inhibiting energy development.

Obama said there is no quick fix to high gas prices, which climbed to $3.83 on Friday according to AAA, but he pushed back against critics who say he is opposed to more drilling. He said the United States is producing more oil than at any time in the past eight years and has quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs.

In the weekly Republican address, Representative Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, said his constituents have been hit hard by an increase in gasoline prices and were “fed up with the way the president is handling this issue, and rightfully so. The most forceful thing the president has done about high gas prices is try to explain that he’s against them.’’

Gardner said the $800 billion stimulus spending sought by Obama promoted energy companies that went bankrupt, wasting taxpayer money.

“After spending money we don’t have on what won’t work - and overregulating what would - is it any wonder gas prices have more than doubled on the president’s watch? Make no mistake, high gas prices are a symptom of his failed ‘stimulus’ policies,’’ Gardner said.

Romney would support statehood for Puerto Rico

Mitt Romney courted voters in Puerto Rico on Saturday, a day before the island’s Republican primary, saying he would support statehood for Puerto Rico if it chooses that option in a Nov. 6 referendum.

Romney discussed the issue with a small crowd in Bayamon, where he also shopped for tropical fruit. Puerto Rico is a US territory.

Romney said President Reagan was a proponent of Puerto Rican statehood. He praised the island’s culture and its residents’ willingness to serve in the US military. Romney campaigned with Governor Luis Fortuno of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but they do not pay taxes and they can’t vote in presidential elections.

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