Continued from page 1

Romney has called on Obama to fire his “gas hike trio” _ Romney’s term for Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson.

And Romney has chided Obama for his interest in renewable energy. “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” the former Massachusetts governor told a campaign audience in Ohio earlier this month.

In fact, Obama has walked a fine line with environmentalists on energy.

Many cheered when he decided to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline after widespread protests from environmental groups. But his administration is now pledging to fast-track a smaller segment of the pipeline to bring oil from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast, to environmentalists’ dismay.

Obama has drawn praise from environmentalists for instituting a temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last spring. But he is pushing more oil and gas drilling in part because of high fuel prices and has recently given approval to Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean _ a step that environmental groups have been fighting for years.

Obama has also given a guarded endorsement of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, even as the EPA and Interior Department are pursuing several new regulations on the controversial drilling practice to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock.

Obama has pleased environmentalists with improvements in energy efficiency, fuel economy and investment in clean-energy technologies. But he has infuriated many by embracing nuclear energy as part of a so-called clean-energy standard.

“This administration has expanded drilling in the Arctic, has delayed protections from smog, and at the same time done more for clean energy and to cut oil consumption than any administration ever,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “By our view, that’s a combination of wins and losses, or advances and retreats, that shows a pragmatic and moderate record.”


Cappiello reported from Washington. AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.

Follow Beth Fouhy on Twitter:

Follow Dina Cappiello on Twitter: