President Obama is rebuffing environmentalists who want him to abandon his support for domestic oil-and-gas drilling.
But he's pledging wilderness protection and calling for new steps to ensure the nation's gas production surge doesn't strand communities when the boom times end.
"The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades," Obama said in Tuesday's State of the Union address.
The speech arrives shortly after major green groups called on Obama to ditch the "all of the above" policy that backs fossil-fuel development alongside the green energy sources that environmentalists embrace.
But Obama noted that, "if extracted safely," natural gas is "the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change."
He also touted safeguards. "My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities," he said.
In a "fact sheet" distributed alongside the speech, the White House called on Congress to help create "sustainable shale gas growth zones."
The White House said this would help "regions come together to make sure shale gas is developed in a safe, responsible way that helps build diverse and resilient regional economies that can withstand boom-and-bust cycles and can be leaders in building and deploying clean energy technologies."
As part of his promotion of natural gas, the White House said Obama would propose new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks to run on natural gas or other alternative fuels.
Obama said Congress can create jobs by "building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas."
Obama promoted the nation's oil-production boom early in the speech, noting that the U.S. is producing more oil than imports for the first time in roughly two decades.
However, he also hinted at greater use of executive powers to protect wilderness. "I'll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations," he said.
Elsewhere, Obama highlighted another major executive action underway: planned Environmental Protection Agency rules that will impose carbon-emissions standards on power plants. The comments come as the planned regulations face increasing attacks from Republicans and industry groups.
"Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency—because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air," Obama said.
The text of the speech is available here.