President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney engaged in a heated discussion over oil production during the president’s first term during their second debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Tuesday night. President Obama insisted that oil production has been up and that the oil companies have been granted permits to drill but refuse to do so. Governor Romney, though, pointed out that the government is not granting many permits to oil companies, particularly on federal land.
“The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years,” President Obama said. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional source of energy. We’ve got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars.”
Governor Romney shot back, saying: “Oil production is is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters.”
Romney continued, ” What we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal, and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal. Talk to these people working in those industries. I was just in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, ‘Please save my job.’ The head of the EPA said, ‘ You can’t build a coal plant. You’ll virtually—it’s virtually impossible given our regulations.’”
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Obama’s Interior Department just banned drilling on 11.5 million acres of petroleum reserve:
President Obama is campaigning as a champion of the oil and gas boom he’s had nothing to do with, and even as his regulators try to stifle it. The latest example is the Interior Department’s little-noticed August decision to close off from drilling nearly half of the 23.5 million acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
The area is called the National Petroleum Reserve because in 1976 Congress designated it as a strategic oil and natural gas stockpile to meet the “energy needs of the nation.” Alaska favors exploration in nearly the entire reserve. The feds had been reviewing four potential development plans, and the state of Alaska had strongly objected to the most restrictive of the four. Sure enough, that was the plan Interior chose.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says his plan “will help the industry bring energy safely to market from this remote location, while also protecting wildlife and subsistence rights of Alaska Natives.” He added that the proposal will expand “safe and responsible oil and gas development, and builds on our efforts to help companies develop the infrastructure that’s needed to bring supplies online.”
The problem is almost no one in the energy industry and few in Alaska agree with him. In an August 22 letter to Mr. Salazar, the entire Alaska delegation in Congress—Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young—call it “the largest wholesale land withdrawal and blocking of access to an energy resource by the federal government in decades.” This decision, they add, “will cause serious harm to the economy and energy security of the United States, as well as to the state of Alaska.” Mr. Begich is a Democrat.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said to me after the debate on Tuesday night, “President Obama hasn’t banned oil production out in Alaska…well he hasn’t banned it across the country.”
Additionally, Fox News host Neil Cavuto reported in March that granting oil drilling permits under the Obama administration was down 36 percent compared to the George W. Bush administration and Bill Clinton and administration:
When the president says he is opening up millions of acres for drilling exploration in the United States, Cavuto says you might want to thank the previous presidents instead, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the current administration has actually decreased approval of drilling permits by 36 percent. Even under Bill Clinton, his administration increased the approval of drilling permits by 58 percent, and George W. Bush increased approval by 116 percent.