Obama to confront oil pipeline, climate change

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's second-term energy agenda is taking shape and, despite the departure of key cabinet officials, it looks a lot like the first: more reliance on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and expanded production of oil and natural gas. Obama also is promising to address climate change, an issue he has acknowledged has sometimes been overlooked.

"The president has been clear that tackling climate change and enhancing energy security will be among his top priorities in his second term," said Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman.

While the administration has made progress in developing renewable energy and improving fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, "we know there is more work to do," Stevens said.

He'll have to do that work with new heads of the agencies responsible for the environment. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection chief Lisa Jackson, and Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have announced they are leaving. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is expected to follow his colleagues out the door in coming weeks.

One of the first challenges Obama will face is an old problem: whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Obama blocked the pipeline last year, citing uncertainty over the conduit's route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. Gov. Dave Heineman is considering a new route; he is expected to make a decision next month. The State Department has federal jurisdiction because the $7 billion pipeline begins in Canada.

Meanwhile, Obama has announced that he will nominate B. Todd Jones as the next director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, selecting the top federal prosecutor in Minnesota who has been the agency's acting head for more than a year. Obama said he would nominate Jones as part of a sweeping plan to tighten gun laws.

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