President Barack Obama is focusing on two parts of his plan to make America more competitive: energy and education.
With the White House and Congress enmeshed in tense negotiations to avert a government shutdown at week's end, Obama was heading to the Philadelphia area Wednesday to discuss his long-term plan to lower fuel prices by reducing oil imports, tapping domestic energy sources and shifting the nation to renewable and less polluting sources of energy, such as wind. He has set a goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025.
The president was meeting with workers at a branch of the Spanish company Gamesa Technology Corp. to talk over those ideas. Gamesa makes giant turbines that use wind to generate electricity and, according to the White House, is the first overseas company of its kind to set up shop in the U.S.
As fuel prices rise because of growing demand worldwide and political unrest in oil-producing nations in North Africa and the Middle East, drivers are feeling pinched at the pump. Republicans blame Obama and his policies and he, in turn, is striving to show the public that he gets it.
Gasoline prices rose another 2 cents Tuesday to a new national average of $3.685 a gallon, according to AAA and other sources. A gallon now costs 18 cents more than a month ago, nearly 88 cents more than last year, and has topped the $4 mark in Alaska, California and Hawaii.
In a speech last week, Obama argued that it's time for lawmakers to get serious about a long-term strategy to make the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy sources instead of "rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again."
Among the steps he outlined are expanding development and production of domestic sources of oil and natural gas; developing alternatives to oil, including biofuels; tightening fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks; and encouraging production of alternative-fuel or all-electric vehicles.
Obama's visit to Gamesa will be his fourth energy event since March 11. He's scheduled a fifth for Friday in Indianapolis.
Obama argues that shifting to cleaner and domestic energy sources will help create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.
Education is another item on Obama's competitiveness agenda. That issue was to be the focus of a speech he was giving later Wednesday to the Rev. Al Sharpton's civil rights group in New York City. Obama's appearance keeps a promise he made to the National Action Network when he spoke there as a presidential candidate in 2007. Obama pledged to return _ win or lose.
He returns just two days after launching his re-election bid. He is facing a key constituency that at times has scolded him for not being attentive enough to certain issues, such as double-digit black unemployment, but continues to hold him in high regard.
Obama deflects such criticism by arguing that his polices to expand the economy, create jobs and improve the education system, among other goals, will help the country as a whole, blacks included.
Ninety-five percent of blacks who voted opted for Obama in 2008. A Gallup poll released last week showed his job approval among blacks holding at 84 percent, about the same as six months earlier.
AP National Writer Jesse Washington contributed to this report.