WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, defending himself against election-year attacks over his energy policies, said on Friday that his critics were trying to set up a "false choice" between protecting the environment and boosting the economy.
Republicans, citing Democrat Obama's rejection of TransCanada's Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, have accused Obama of pandering to environmental groups important to his political base at the expense of job-creating energy projects.
"There will always be people in this country who say that we've got to choose between clean air, clean water and growing the economy, between doing right by the environment and putting people back to work," Obama told an audience in Washington that included hunters, fishermen, conservationists and small business owners.
"I'm here to tell you that is a false choice," said Obama, who has gone on the offensive against Republican complaints that his policies are to blame for lofty gas prices, as they target what they think is a soft spot on his record in a bid to derail his re-election hopes in November.
Obama, who grew up in Hawaii and spent several years of his childhood in Indonesia, also recalled traveling the U.S. mainland when he was 11 with his mother and grandmother, reminiscing about touring Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. West and seeing deer and bison for the first time.
"With smart, sustainable policies we can grow our economy today and protect our environment for ourselves and our children," the president said.
(Reporting By Alister Bull; Editing by Philip Barbara)