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Obama energy critics in "fairy tale" world: U.S. official

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Obama administration official on Tuesday accused lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives of living in a world of "fairy tales and falsehoods" when it comes to energy.

In a stinging rebuke to the administration's critics, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar strongly defended his department's record on energy policy.

Referring to a world of fairy tales and falsehood in the nation's capital, Salazar said in a speech at the National Press Club that "it's in that imaginary world where we see the continuing and growing divide in the energy debate in America."

"The imagined fairy tale world is the invention of campaign years and political rhetoric. I think you can find its edge when you walk out of the House of Representatives," he added.

Salazar's comments come as the White House works to shake off any taint from surging fuel prices ahead of the presidential election in November.

Instead of calling for more U.S. oil and gas drilling, Salazar said lawmakers should recognize that there is no silver bullet for high gasoline prices.

President Barack Obama gets some of his lowest poll marks for his handling of energy prices, which climbed this year on tensions with Iran.

As U.S. gasoline prices rose near $4 this Spring, Republicans seized on the issue, blasting the administration for not doing enough to promote domestic oil and gas production and for delaying a Canada-to-Texas oil sands pipeline.

Salazar rebuffed these calls for expanding drilling, pointing out that U.S. oil production is at its highest level in eight years and that U.S. imports of foreign oil have declined.

Republicans argue that much of that increase has occurred on private lands, however.

Touting the administration's "all of the above" approach to energy that offers support for both conventional and renewable energy, Salazar called on Congress to pass legislation codifying offshore drilling reforms made at his department since 2010 BP oil spill.

He also said Congress should make tax breaks for renewable energy permanent and approve an agreement between Mexico and the United States that would allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico along the countries' maritime boundary.

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