- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2012


There’s a simple, one-word answer to President Obama’s latest lecture that “we can’t drill our way” to lower gas prices: Baloney.

The American people know commodity prices are driven largely by supply and demand. There’s not much we can do about demand for gas right now, but there is a great deal we can do about supply, and that is increase it by opening up development of more oil and natural gas that we have in abundance right here at home.

But drilling for more oil and gas apparently is forbidden in the president’s environmental bible. He’d rather invest in such energy alternatives as windmills, solar panels and biofuels, including grasses, wood chips and algae.

Yes, algae, that green pond scum, which he touted last week in his energy speech at the University of Miami. In that speech, he responded to his critics about skyrocketing gas prices, which this week soared to nearly $4 for a gallon of regular and well over $4 in many parts of the country.

There are forecasts that gas prices could rise to $5 a gallon if Mr. Obama sticks to his present “just say no” policy course on drilling for more oil.

Mr. Obama told his audience to be patient about rising gas prices because help was on the way under his alternative-fuels program. He proudly pointed to a $14 million federal grant to turn algae into fuel.

It’s not economically viable yet, mind you, but they’re working on it - though it will take years, maybe decades - and billions of tax dollars in the form of subsidies.

Meantime, the president wants the country to know there’s nothing anyone can do right now about higher gas prices except raise taxes on the oil industry, if Congress only will let him do that. It won’t.

So he has taken to ridiculing critics of his energy policy, charging them with playing politics. His spiel goes like this:

“Since it’s an election year, they’re dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas. Step One is drill, Step Two is drill, and Step Three is keep drilling,” he told the students in Miami.

“Well, the American people aren’t stupid. You know that’s not a plan. … You know there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can’t just drill our way to lower prices. There’s no silver bullet. There never has been. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make phony election-year promises about lower gas prices.”

Mr. Obama’s thinking reflects “the White House’s belief that gasoline prices are subject to cyclical spikes due to forces largely outside its control,” The Washington Post reported.

But the growth-stalling, job-killing gas prices we have now are not foreordained by some ethereal power beyond our control. They are the result of the anti-drilling policies Mr. Obama began putting into place from the moment he took office in January 2009, when the price of regular gas was $1.85.

In a fact-filled statement following Mr. Obama’s college-level lecture, Karen A. Harbert, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, spelled out just what those “just say no” policies were. Among them:

c The Obama administration “has issued 50.7 percent fewer annual [oil drilling] leases on public lands than President Clinton did.”

c “Gulf of Mexico energy production is down 16 percent since 2009 and is projected to decrease even further in 2012.”

c “Obama denied the [oil-producing] Keystone XL pipeline permit, which would have created thousands of jobs and provided all Americans with a steady supply of oil from a friendly ally.”

c Mr. Obama “also has banned new offshore areas from oil and gas exploration, and recently his administration took 1 million acres of onshore land rich with oil shale off the table.”

The president was right about one remark in his speech. The American people are not stupid.

They see that his green-energy policies are hostile to oil and gas drilling. They remember what happened to the $535 million government loan to the Solyndra solar-panel company, which Mr. Obama backed to the hilt despite warnings from advisers that this was a very shaky enterprise. It fell into bankruptcy, and taxpayers footed the half-billion-dollar loan-guarantee bill.

That scandal has come and gone, but at least half a dozen others being bankrolled by the administration have run into financial trouble or have failed to live up to Mr. Obama’s exaggerated promises.

This week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s gasoline price survey put the average price paid by drivers for a gallon of regular at $3.72. It’s up to more than $4 in nearly a dozen states.

Gas prices have risen 13 cents in the past week alone, and the average price per gallon is nearly 20 cents higher than two weeks ago, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The price of a gallon of regular on Jan. 2, 2009, just as Mr. Obama was preparing to take office, was $1.62, according to the motorist group AAA. That price was down nearly 47 percent from the year before — the result of aggressive oil-drilling policies under the George W. Bush administration.

Meanwhile, TransCanada, the Canadian firm that sought to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, announced Monday that it will go ahead with plans to build part of the pipeline from Cushing, Okla. (a major terminal where there’s a glut of oil) to Port Arthur, Texas. The administration says it is studying the plan. If built, it would transport 700,000 barrels of oil a day.

A national Quinnipiac University poll reported last week that nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) supported the pipeline that Mr. Obama blocked. Just 23 percent opposed it.

What is it about this pipeline that Mr. Obama doesn’t get?

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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