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Obama pledges independence from fossil fuels during California visit

FREMONT — President Barack Obama reaffirmed Wednesday his commitment to containing and cleaning up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and pledged to wean the country off its dependence on fossil fuels.

"We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired and the cleanup is complete," he said during a visit to a Fremont solar panel plant that recently expanded using a federal stimulus loan.

An explosion April 20 on the Deepwater Horizon blasted a leak in an underwater well, causing at least 5,000 barrels of oil a day to gush into the coastal waters. Obama, facing increased criticism for not responding strongly enough to the spill, plans to travel to Louisiana to assess recovery efforts at the end of the week.

Obama said that the spill in the gulf "underscored the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources," and that the administration is "intensively engaged with scientists and engineers to explore all alternative options" as relief wells are completed.

Obama praised the Solyndra solar panel plant and a newly hatched partnership between Toyota Motors Corp. and Tesla Motors to manufacture electric cars at the recently shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont as steps toward energy independence.

"You're demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn't just an article of faith, not any more," he told workers at the Solyndra plant. "We're poised to transform the ways we power our homes and our cars and our businesses."

The Solyndra plant expansion, financed in part by a $535 million loan guarantee using stimulus dollars from the Department of Energy, is expected to create 3,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs. White House officials said the loan sparked a flow of private capital into the project. The NUMMI deal also received an Energy Department loan and is expected to create 1,000 jobs.

Obama stressed the importance of increasing domestic production of solar panels and electric vehicles as countries like China and Germany invest in alternative energy production.

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