President Obama makes pitch for southern portion of Keystone Pipeline

CUSHING, Okla. - The day President Barack Obama visited Cushing to highlight his energy plan: a day for Ok lahoma's history books.

Thursday marked the president's first stop in the Sooner state while in office.

Obama made a point to stop near Cushing  -- pledging support for the southern portion of the Keystone Pipeline. His visit comes in the midst of soaring gas prices and criticism from Republicans on his energy policy. President Obama says he has a message for Oklahomans.

"I don't want the energy jobs of tomorrow going to other countries. I want them here -- in the United States of America," Obama said.

While the president says we are producing oil here at home, he says domestic oil is not enough to drive gas prices down.

Surrounded by rows and rows of pipes, Obama made a pledge to fast track 484 miles of pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf of Mexico.

"There's a bottleneck right here because we can't get our oil to our refineries fast enough," he said.

The Obama administration previously rejected the entire 1,700 mile Trans-Canada project. In the midst of criticism from Republicans, Obama says the full project needs more review. He emphasized drilling at home won't stop.

"As long as I'm president, we're going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure. And we're going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people," Obama said.

In his "All of the Above" energy strategy, the president calls for reducing dependence on foreign oil by exploring more options in the United States.

"It means more fuel-efficient cars, it means more solar power, more wind power, which nearly tripled here in Oklahoma in the past three years, in part because of some of our policies," Obama said.

Obama found a friendly, supportive crowd of mostly Democrats, in what's known as the "reddest of the red" states. More than 100 people gathered, by invitation-only.

"I couldn't agree more with him. We live and die with energy in Oklahoma, and I mean, I can't complain that he's doing something to help Oklahomans. We need it," said Brad Essary, an Independent from Stillwater.

"I think it's symbolic of what he wants to do. That while he has embraced renewables and new technologies, that he's not abandoning oil and gas. And I think that says a lot," said Rep. Cory Williams (D- Stillwater).

Still, some questioned his recent decisions.

"Some things he could've handled better. But I think for the most part, he's got America's interests in mind," said 14-year-old William Pope of Oklahoma City.

Many Republicans are happy to see the southern portion of the pipeline moving along. But they question why the president rejected the entire project, which would begin in Canada.

"The only thing is I would like him to sign the presidential order to get the Hardesty to Cushing leg of the pipeline done. And I hope he's true to his word and he will get that done as soon as possible," said Rep. Lee Denney (R- Cushing).

Whether or not they agree with his policy, most welcomed the president with respect in their home state.

"I got to shake his hand. That was a real pleasure, a real honor," Pope said.

Next the president heads to Ohio to continue to rally support for his energy plan.

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