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Obama pushes for domestic energy use in visit to battleground states

LAS VEGAS — Declaring the United States the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas," President Barack Obama began pushing Thursday for greater use of the fuel resource under domestic soil as he pitched his economic plan on a tour of battleground states.

Speaking to United Parcel Service workers at a facility here, Obama said the government should encourage U.S. shipping companies to reduce reliance on foreign oil to power their fleets.

Tapping natural gas sources in the United States could "power our cars and our homes and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way," Obama said. "We, it turns out, are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. We've got a lot of it."

The president rolled out a plan that offers tax incentives for companies that buy natural gas-powered trucks. Even with additional oil production, Obama told the crowd, "We only have about 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. So we've got to have an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy."

Obama also announced that the Interior Department will open up 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for more exploration and development. The lease sale is the final one in a five-year plan for drilling in the central gulf.

Judge rules for Transocean: The rig owner involved in drilling the well that blew out in the gulf and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil will not have to pay many of the pollution claims because it was shielded in a contract with well-owner BP, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The decision may have spared Transocean from having to pay potentially billions of dollars in damage claims. But U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said it is not exempt from punitive damages and civil penalties that also could amount to billions of dollars.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.