- - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

At a congressional hearing Tuesday on Department of Energy green-energy programs, Secretary Steven Chu said, “I am not an expert on oil reserves.”

You don’t say.

In 2008, Mr. Chu famously said, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” revealing a level of animus toward oil that President Obama’s handpicked energy secretary has carried with him throughout his tenure as America’s chief energy policymaker.

When asked yesterday about his 2008 quote, Mr. Chu said, “I’d rather dwell on what my record has been in the department since I became a public servant” instead of discussing a philosophy he held just months before being sworn into office but that he has since, and rather expediently, eschewed.

Fair enough. Let’s dwell on his record instead.

Since Mr. Obama took office, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has increased from $1.85 to $3.80, putting America well on its way to achieving Mr. Chu’s vision of European-inspired gas prices, which range from $7 a gallon in Spain to around $9 a gallon in Italy, with France and England somewhere in between.

Under Mr. Obama, oil and gas lease sales and permits have been canceled, delayed or suspended at unprecedented levels, with the Obama administration having leased less acreage on federal lands than any other administration on record. In 2011 alone, oil production on federal lands decreased by 11 percent. Drilling on private lands has gone up, and Mr. Obama claims, like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise, that he had something to do with it when, in fact, the increase is a direct result of permits issued under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In 2010, the administration issued a moratorium on all new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, limiting supply and costing up to 12,000 jobs, according to the administration’s own estimates. Months later, the administration placed the entire Pacific Coast, the entire Atlantic Coast, the Eastern Gulf and parts of Alaska off limits to future energy production until 2017 at the earliest.

In 2011, when the new Republican-led House passed the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, which would have unlocked an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the president opposed it, just as he opposed the House-passed Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act (H.R. 1230) and Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act (H.R. 1229).

Most recently, even as tensions in the Middle East have escalated and the threat of a nuclear-capable Iran has become ever more real, the president in January blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, a bipartisan-backed project that would have transported nearly a million barrels of oil a day into the United States from Canada, lessening our reliance on fuel from politically volatile parts of the world.

Instead of focusing on increased domestic production of America’s abundant supply of fossil fuels, including coal, which has been under constant attack from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through permit delays and costly regulations, the president and Mr. Chu have spent the past three years and billions of taxpayer dollars promoting a green-energy agenda that has failed to produce results.

The darling of the president’s electric-vehicle initiative, the Chevrolet Volt, has been temporarily pulled from production because of poor sales. Solyndra, the solar-panel energy company that received more than $500 million in taxpayer funds and that the president said was “the true engine of economic growth,” has since filed for bankruptcy.

Ener1, a company that makes electric-vehicle batteries and received a $118 million federal grant, has filed for bankruptcy, and Fisker, a company that produces electric vehicles in Finland and received a $529 million federal loan guarantee, has, like the Volt, missed early manufacturing goals and has delayed plans for U.S. production.

The president and Mr. Chu hedged their bets in the form of billions of taxpayer dollars on a green-energy initiative that has cost Americans tens of thousands of jobs and has contributed to the creation of the highest average annual oil price in the 150-year history of the modern oil industry.

Unlike the president’s “all-of-the-above” strategy, which fails to use everything below, we not only need to develop alternative sources of energy, but we must harness the abundant source of fossil fuels that lie beneath our soil and off of our shores.

Even though Mr. Chu says he no longer espouses the belief that we need to increase gas prices to European levels, the administration’s recent proposal to increase taxpayer subsidies for alternative-energy sources and its continued assault on fossil fuels through onerous EPA regulations belie the likelihood of a true ideological conversion on the part of this energy secretary and the entire administration.

In just three years of Mr. Obama’s first term, the price of gas in America has doubled. I fear what the price will be at the end of a second term - and which European nation we will most likely resemble.

Rep. Mike Kelly is a Pennsylvania Republican.

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