MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. -- President Barack Obama used a visit to North Carolina on Wednesday to announce a new initiative to build and use alternative-energy vehicles.
In remarks delivered at the Daimler Trucks plant in Mount Holly, N.C., Obama announced a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge. The goal of that program -- to spur the construction and use of "clean" vehicles.
The speech and the new program, which also includes expansion of tax credits and other incentives, is part of the Obama administration's effort to deal with rising discontent among U.S. citizens with rising gasoline prices.
Answering critics who said the Obama administration has not done enough to increase drilling for oil on U.S. territory, the president said, "As a country that has 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, we use 20 percent. What that means is as much as we're using, we're not going to be able to drill our way out of high gas prices."
"We need an all-of-the-above strategy," Obama added, saying increased use of biofuels, wind and solar energy, and other types of new energy sources is needed.
"We just can't keep relying on the old way of doing business," he said.
The president said the United States is drilling more oil now than when he took office. But he said drilling is not the only answer.
He said increasing the amount of petroleum that is drilled will not solve the problem, because prices are being driven upward, in part, by increased demand. Obama said more than 10 million new vehicles were built in China in 2010. He said the number of vehicles is increasing dramatically in China, India and Brazil. That, he said, is increasing the demand for petroleum fuel.
Obama advised the crowd gathered at the Daimler plant "not to listen to phony election year politics" of finding ways to drop gas prices to $2 a gallon.
The president selected the Daimler Truck plant for his speech and announcement because alternative fuel vehicles are being built there. Referring to the recent hiring of more than 1,000 workers, Obama said, "That's something to be proud of."
"You're not just building trucks," he said. "You're building better trucks that use less oil."
As he started his remarks, which lasted about 15 minutes, Obama said he enjoys being in North Carolina. Noting a blue tie he was wearing, he said the tie is Tar Heel blue. But, he said, it also is close to Duke University's colors.
"I don't want to make any enemies," he said, to laughter from the crowd.
(Staff writers Jim Morrill, Joe DePriest and Steve Lyttle contributed to this report.)
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