The Debunker: Obama really is the non-energy president

With gas selling above $5 per gallon just blocks from the White House, President Barack Obama is already trying to duck responsibility. In his weekly radio address Feb. 25, the President said that “under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. In 2010, our dependence on foreign oil was under 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade.” This came two days after he told a crowd in Miami, “we have a record number of oil rigs operating right now — more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined.” The day before, White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the President’s energy policy, saying that  the soaring price of gas is “certainly not because of anything he hasn’t done to expand domestic oil and gas production, because he has done — taken significant action to expand American gas and oil production.”


These claims are part of an orchestrated strategy to “try to head off the political impact of rising gasoline prices.” (If only the President were as concerned about the economic impact of rising gas prices!) But they are nothing but spin.

While it’s true that U.S. oil and natural gas production are up, this is not thanks to, but in spite of Obama. All the increased production has come from state and private lands, where the President has little power. On federal lands controlled by Obama, production has actually fallen.

According to an Institute for Energy Research analysis of data from the Interior Department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue, production of oil increased 14 percent and natural gas 12 percent on private and state lands in Fiscal Year 2011, while on federal lands, production of oil declined 11 percent and natural gas 6 percent.

Oil Natural gas
Private & state lands +14% +12%
Federal lands -11% -6%

Source: IER Analysis: Oil and Gas Production Declines on Federal Lands in FY2011, Feb. 23, 2012

So, what “significant action” has Obama taken to “expand American gas and oil production”? Let’s review his achievements:

As Secretary of Energy, Obama appointed Stephen Chu, who in September 2008 told the Wall Street Journal, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” (So far, so good.)

As Secretary of the Interior (in charge of oil leases on federal lands) Obama appointed Ken Salazar — who, as a Democratic senator from Colorado, on July 31, 2008, had stubbornly refused to assent to any drilling on America’s outer continental shelf — even if gas reached $10 a gallon.

Immediately upon taking office, Salazar rescinded 77 leases in Utah, charging that the Bush White House had pressured Bureau of Land Management officials into making the sales. (Upon investigation, the Inspector General found “no evidence to support the allegation.”)

Following the Gulf oil spill, Obama asked an expert panel for recommendations; although that panel strongly opposed a drilling moratorium , the White House misrepresented the panel’s views to justify a six-month moratorium. After a U.S. District Court overturned the moratorium as “arbitrary and capricious” (a ruling upheld on appeal), Obama defied the court, issuing a second moratorium — which he then expanded to five years (for which the administration was found in contempt).

As a result of Obama’s moratorium, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, crude oil production on federal lands in the Gulf of Mexico fell 15 percent in 2011.

All in all, a predictable performance for a President who, as a candidate, told the San Francisco Chronicle on January 17, 2008, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”