AT A TIME when Nigerians are ever more dependent on oil and its proceeds for over 90 percent of the country’s revenue, President Barack Obama on Wednesday dismissed oil as "the fuel of the past" as
he made an unapologetic election-year pitch for his alternative energy industry policies and sniped at his Republican rivals over painfully high gasoline prices.
It would be recalled that a massive protest ensued after the Nigerian government decided to remove what it refers to as subsidy – which many Nigerians actually doubt its existence in the first place – in January, after years of similar attempts which were ultimately defeated by popular protests.
As the 11th largest oil producer in the world, Nigeria remains heavily dependent on oil and its financial proceeds, which accrues for about 97% of the national income.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Obama inveighed against his political opponents who are doubling down on a political rhetoric that promotes more drilling to conquer America’s insatiable thirst for the black jewel beneath its land and waters in many places.
"They get out on the campaign trail—and you and I both know there are no quick fixes to this problem—but listening to them, you'd think there were," he said at a Daimler Truck manufacturing plant in the battleground state of North Carolina.
Obama said that because the United States accounts for 20 percent of the world's consumption of oil but has only 2 percent of its petroleum reserves, "we're not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices. Anybody who tells you otherwise either doesn't know what they're talking about or they aren't telling you the truth."
"Here is the truth. If we are going to control our energy future, then we've got to have an all-of-the-above strategy," he said in his speech. "We've got to develop every source of American energy—not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power, nuclear power, biofuels."
A top congressional Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, hit Obama on his call to end subsidies for oil companies while directing government help to so-called green energy firms, some of which have political ties to the administration.
"When it comes to rising gas prices, the American people don't think it's particularly fair that at a time when they're struggling to fill up the tank, their own tax dollars are being used to subsidize failing solar companies of the president's choosing, not to mention the bonuses that executives at these companies keep getting," McConnell said.
And "if higher gas prices hurt the economy, then why in the world is the administration calling for higher taxes on energy manufacturers?" said the Kentucky lawmaker.
Obama, his hopes for a new term threatened by high gas prices, pushed Republicans in Congress to support ending oil subsidies.
"We can place our bets on the fuel of the past, or we can place our bets on American know-how and American ingenuity and American workers like the ones here at Daimler. That's the choice we face. That's what's at stake right now," said the president.
Obama also used the speech to roll out some new initiatives to promote the use of alternative fuels and electric-powered and other "advanced vehicles."