As his re-election bid nears, President Obama is pitching a made-in-America energy agenda that calls for more offshore oil drilling, natural gas development and clean-energy investments.
But he's not winning kudos from either the oil industry or environmental groups.
"There's nothing new here," says Rayola Dougher of the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, referring to Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday. She said the "more than 75% of potential offshore oil and gas resources" that Obama said he would open are already being developed.
"This is just a smoke screen," she said, arguing he's trying to sound in favor of oil exploration while seeking to raise taxes on the oil industry. Dougher says the industry doesn't get subsidies, but Obama said the U.S. has "subsidized oil companies for a century" and called for ending such "taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more profitable."
The oil industry, along with labor unions and many Republicans, has criticized Obama for rejecting the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline that would have carried oil sands from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
Environmentalists, while pleased with Obama's Keystone decision last week, also expressed concern about his oil and gas comments Tuesday.
"His speech touted the development of so-called clean energy, but it may as well have been written by the oil and gas industry," says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a safety advocacy group.
She agrees with Obama's call to require gas companies to disclose the chemicals they use in forcing natural gas from shale rock in a water-intensive process known as hydraulic fracking. But she says that's not enough, adding: "To keep water safe and rural communities strong, we should ban fracking."
Frances Beineicke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, says Americans share Obama's goal of energy independence, but "much more needs to be done" to protect the environment from increased domestic drilling.
She welcomed his continued support for energy efficiency and renewable power, including solar and wind. In the speech, Obama defended his record on clean-energy development, obliquely referring to the half-billion-dollar federal loan guarantee to now bankrupt solar manufacturer Solyndra that continues to draw heavy criticism from GOP opponents on the campaign trail.
"Some technologies don't pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy," Obama said, calling on Congress to pass clean-energy tax credits.
Steven Nadel of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a non-profit group, says he wants to know more about Obama's proposal to help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings.
"We got the advertising tagline without any of the details," Nadel says. He's not surprised by the speech's vagueness. "I viewed it more as a political statement" and an attempt to appeal to the political center, he says, adding: "Most elections are won in the middle."
On that front, Obama may be scoring points. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, in post-speech discussions with 50 swing voters in Denver, found Democrats and Independents rated Obama's comments on energy the highest among nine speech areas. Yet those remarks were one of the few polarizing areas for Republicans who reacted negatively to his call for more support of clean energy.
Overall, Greenberg found Obama gained 22 points on the energy issue, one of his biggest gains from Tuesday's address, attributing that to his populist appeal to end subsidies for oil companies and focus them instead on expanding clean energy.