President Obama has been touring the country this week touting increased oil and gas production numbers during his time in office — but his selective quotes and figures tell only part of the story.
Citing statistics showing an eight-year high in domestic oil and gas supply, Mr. Obama says his administration has opened up millions of acres to gas and oil exploration across 23 states while gas prices have continued to rise — so more drilling will do nothing to alleviate pain at the pump.
“We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some,” he said. “So we are drilling all over the place [-] right now. That’s not the challenge. That’s not the problem.”
In making such sweeping statements, Mr. Obama has not acknowledged other facts and figures that are not so flattering for his administration — the impact of actions his administration took after the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill or his dramatic shift away from drilling in areas of the outer continental shelf that President George W. Bush proposed at the end of his term.
Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich has railed against Mr. Obama’s “anti-energy” policies and Thursday revisited his $2.50-a-gallon gasoline pledge, saying “there is a silver bullet” to the nation’s energy needs: “It’s called drilling.”
One day before a trip to the oil-dominated economy of Shreveport, La., GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney said Thursday that Mr. Obama has “done almost everything wrong with regards to energy and almost everything wrong with regards to the economy.”
“And I don’t think it’s because he’s a bad guy. I just think he’s over his head and doesn’t have the experience to know how what he is doing is harming the American people,” Mr. Romney said.
Thomas J. Pyle, president of the industry-funded Institute for Energy Research, has a more cynical view. He labels Mr. Obama’s latest energy tour, as well as his administration’s Thursday announcement that it will fast-track the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, as part of an ongoing “charade” on energy.
“This administration’s record speaks for itself,” he said. “For more than three years, President Obama has implemented a three-part strategy: delay, deny and deceive.”
Both sides used an Energy Information Agency report issued in mid-March to boost their arguments. While the report confirmed that domestic oil production is at an eight-year high, it also showed that Mr. Obama had little if any role in helping boost domestic supply even though he takes credit for it on the stump.
Domestic oil production last year averaged 5.6 million barrels a day, the highest output since 2003 and a 4 percent jump since Mr. Bush’s last year in office, according to the March EIA report, but it’s far below production levels of a decade ago.
Republicans argue that Mr. Obama is taking credit for several lease sales Mr. Bush put into place while failing to take advantage of the end of an 18-year ban on drilling in the outer continental shelf, which the Bush administration lifted in 2008 in response to public outcry over high gas prices.
But the vast majority of the increase in domestic oil and gas production in recent years has occurred on state and private land in North Dakota and Texas, where the president has no role in protecting or permitting drilling. Instead, technological advances that allow companies to extract oil from shale formations have driven the exploration.
Just this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released a report showing federal oil production as representing 7.5 percent of total oil produced from all onshore U.S. lands in 2011, even though the federal government owns more than 30 percent of the lands with oil-producing potential.
The actions Mr. Obama took after the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 sharply decreased oil production on federal lands and offshore waters in 2011 — even though that year’s numbers were 12 percent higher than when Mr. Bush left office.
Mr. Obama’s critics say the first six months of the moratorium cost the U.S. at least 12,000 jobs and $2 billion. After the spill, the Obama administration canceled or delayed several lease sales that were part of the Bush administration’s 2007-12 outer continental lease plan, which a Democrat-controlled Congress approved in 2007.
After lifting the drilling ban, Mr. Bush began coming up with a five-year plan for the outer continental shelf that would cover 2010 to 2015 and replace the 2007-12 blueprint, which didn’t provide for lease sales in areas covered by the moratorium.
Right before Mr. Obama took office, the Interior Department issued a draft outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing plan, which included 31 planned lease sales — including four areas off Alaska, two areas off the Pacific Coast, three areas in the Gulf of Mexico and three areas off the Atlantic Coast.
Less than a month after taking office, Mr. Obama delayed the Bush administration’s five-year plan and didn’t come up with a new 2012-17 lease proposal until late last year. The draft allows lease sales only in areas that are already open to drilling, including lease sales in the Western Gulf of Mexico and Alaska — leaving portions of the Arctic and the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts off-limits to more energy production and job creation.
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Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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