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Obama says energy policy a top priority next year

        President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said revamping U.S. energy policy would be a top priority next year and may have to be done "in chunks" rather than through one piece of legislation, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

In an interview published on Tuesday, Obama lamented that more progress to fight climate change had not been made since he took office, and blamed the economy for that failure.

"One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our over-reliance on fossil fuels," Obama told Rolling Stone.

"We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it's good for our national security, and, ultimately, it's good for our environment."

Climate change was one of Obama's top priorities when he took office in 2009, but it took a backseat to healthcare reform, financial regulation reform, and economic stimulus legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would require the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels -- a goal the Obama administration enshrined in its pledge at U.N. climate talks.

But a similar bill did not make it through the Senate.

"During the past two years, we've not made as much progress as I wanted to make when I was sworn into office. It is very hard to make progress on these issues in the midst of a huge economic crisis," Obama said.

Asked whether he foresaw putting his full weight behind an energy policy push similar to the attention he gave healthcare reform, Obama said: "Yes. Not only can I foresee it, but I am committed to making sure that we get an energy policy that makes sense for the country and that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way."

That may be complicated by November congressional elections.

Republicans are expected to make big gains in the November 2 polls, possibly taking control of one or both houses of Congress. With Republicans in power or even smaller Democratic majorities in Congress, the president will have a harder time getting his policy priorities passed.

Obama's decision to grant an interview of more than an hour to Rolling Stone reflects a bid to energize young voters who helped propel him to the presidency two years ago, an effort that includes a trip to college campuses this week. Climate change is a key issue among young voters.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Mohammad Zargham)