White House reaches out to Jews to back energy plan


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House reached out to Jewish groups in a bid to garner support for President Obama’s energy policies.

The conference call on March 31 between Jewish groups and two top energy policy officials, Heather Zichal and Shoshana Lew, came a day after Obama outlined a program that would reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil by a third by 2025.

Zichal is Obama’s deputy assistant for energy and climate change; Lew is a senior policy adviser on climate change.

Republicans, holding the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, have slammed the president’s proposals as a recipe for spending on untested theories and want Obama to expand domestic drilling.

The Obama administration is reaching out to interest communities, including the Jewish community, which long have supported energy independence in a bid to pressure Congress to take up some of the proposals.

Zichal said there was room for expanding domestic drilling, but not as broadly as Republicans would like.

"We’re working to ensuire more offshore oil production as long as it’s done safely," she said. "We can’t just drill our way out of this crisis."

In a meeting with reporters earlier the same day, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told JTA that the Obama administration was ready to explore alternatives with countries such as Israel that are on the cutting edge of their development.

"We welcome any collaboration," he said.

The American Jewish Committee praised Obama’s initiative.

“We agree wholeheartedly with President Obama’s clarion call to diminish our dependence on oil from hostile nations and change the way Americans consume energy,” said Richard Foltin, AJC’s national affairs and legislative director. “Comprehensive energy proposals have been offered many times since 1973 and allowed to falter. This time the nation must muster the will to act in unison on this critical issue.”

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