Campaign rhetoric vs oil action – Obama’s doublespeak

May 17, 2011 06:12

[I]t is important to differentiate between what Barack Obama is saying to get re-elected, and what his administration is doing.

From The Americano

At this point, close to 18 months before the November 2012 presidential elections, it is important to differentiate between what Barack Obama is saying to get re-elected, and what his administration is doing.

Take for instance the plans that candidate Obama announced in his weekly radio address as president. His administration is serious about reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil imports and wants to expand domestic oil production.

He announced Saturday that the government would hold annual onshore lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve; extend the life of leases in the Gulf of Mexico and in some areas off the coast of Alaska for one year; speed up ongoing Interior Department testing in the mid- and south-Atlantic to gauge the level of resources; and establish an interagency task force to coordinate permitting for offshore drilling in Alaska.

All of this while at the same time Democratic senators pushed the heads of the five largest petroleum companies in the nation to admit that they did not need the national oil subsidies that the government gives them. All this while complaining that these oil companies are gauging the public and saying that there is little the government can do to bring down the price of gasoline consumers must pay at the pump.

The White House is making the policy shifts after taking intense criticism from Republicans in recent weeks over energy policy as gas prices have topped $4 per gallon in some parts of the country.

The White House insists that many of the proposals are incremental expansions of existing policies and had been set in motion prior to Saturday’s announcement. It’s also unclear by how much the plan will increase domestic oil production. If so, it did not explain why the president needed to announce them; nor did they talk about the tens of thousands of jobs increased oil drilling would bring to the country.

In his weekly radio address, Obama said his administration is working to “increase safe and responsible oil production here at home,” while also pushing his previously stated support for alternative fuels and eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies.

According to The Hill, the president acknowledged that there are “no quick fixes” to high gas prices and stressed that price spikes “are often temporary,” but he outlined a series of steps meant to show that the administration is taking action to help consumers.

Still the announcement that the Interior Department will now hold annual onshore lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve, a 23-million acre area on Alaska’s North Slope that was set aside in 1923 as an emergency oil supply for the U.S. Navy was new.

Alaska’s senators, Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Mark Begich, Rep. Don Young (R) and Republican Gov. Sean Parnell all have been pushing the Obama administration to allow more drilling in their state’s federal lands, but have been frustrated by the White House’s resistance.

“For heaven’s sakes, if we can’t drill in the National Petroleum Reserve — an area specifically designated by Congress for oil and gas production — where can we drill?” Murkowski, the ranking member of Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asked at one point.

The Hill said that Murkowski forecast the change when on Friday she said that the Obama administration was coming around on the issue. “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing,” Murkowski said.

Still drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – another government-owned swath of land on the North Slope in which Republicans have long pushed for drilling – will remain off limits. Furthermore, despite the big announcement, what Obama announced Saturday, does not represent a major change in overall policy.

It is simply a candidate running for the office responding to a series of GOP-backed bills that passed the House in the last week and would require the Interior Department to hold new lease sales and speed up the permitting of drilling projects, according to The Hill.

The words sound good. Now the nation must was to see if the Obama administration does what candidate Obama is saying or what it has been doing for the two-plus year it has been in office; with a policy that is clearly not friendly to domestic oil and gas producers.

In his speech, Obama also touted a task force he announced in April to investigate potential fraud in the oil markets.

“[W]e should make sure that no one is taking advantage of consumers at the pump,” Obama said. “That’s why we’ve launched a task force led by the Attorney General that has one job: rooting out cases of fraud or manipulation in the markets that might affect gas prices, including any illegal activity by traders and speculators.”

And he called for eliminating billions of dollars in tax breaks to the oil industry, a plan he outlined in his fiscal year 2012 budget request.

In a recent interview, Shell president Marvin Odum said “certainly my view is that when the government puts leases out there for sale, it’s a statement that they’re ready to go.” But, he added, the company has been waiting five years for one air permit for drilling in the remote Chukchi Sea.

“To wait five years before drilling is a pretty frustrating process,” he said.

The Americano/ Agencies

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