Obama: Drilling Not an Energy Plan, It's a Bumper Sticker

Published in CSP Daily News

White House says forces "beyond our control" driving up gas prices; Dems say tap SPR

MIAMI -- President Barack Obama on Thursday assailed Republicans for what he described as a flawed and dishonest strategy for reducing gasoline prices, reported the Associated Press. He predicted that his rivals would offer nothing but more drilling and political promises of $2-a-gallon gasoline.

"That's not a plan, especially since we're already drilling. That's a bumper sticker," Obama said in a stop at the University of Miami ( click here for a full transcript of his remarks). "It's not a strategy to solve our energy challenge. That's a strategy to get politicians through an election. You know there are no quick fixes to this problem."

Obama spoke as gasoline has reached the highest price at the pump ever for this time of year: an average of $3.58 per gallon.

"You can bet that since it's an election year, they're already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas. I'll save you the suspense: Step one is to drill, step two is to drill, and step three is to keep drilling. ... We've heard the same thing for 30 years. Well, the American people aren't stupid," he said.

Obama insisted there are no short-term solutions to high gasoline prices, and that anyone suggesting otherwise was not being honest.

He sought to take credit for rising oil and gas production, a greater mix of energy sources and decreased consumption. He promoted an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy that the administration said will reduce dependence on foreign oil in the long term.

Republicans have seized on the issue, citing Obama's decision to reject a permit for the Keysone Pipeline as evidence of a misguided policy. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has warned of $5-a-gallon gas, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said he could lower prices to $2.50 a gallon.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that although Obama's approval rating on the economy has climbed, 58% disapprove of what he is doing on gasoline prices.

White House officials point to increased oil production and decreased consumption as evidence that Obama's policies are working and will lead to greater energy independence in the long run. But they assert there is little Obama--or any president--can do to change the trajectory of prices now.

It is an argument that Democrats did not embrace during the presidency of George W. Bush, who was the target of frequent criticism for not doing more to bring high gasoline prices down in the short term.

"These prices are going up, and that tells you that there are other things beyond our control, like unrest in the Middle East or other factors like the growth of emerging countries such as China and India," White House spokesperson Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Oil and gas production has increased during the Obama administration, although the trend began during the Bush administration, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The increase has reversed a decline that began in 1986, and the agency projects that by 2020, oil production will reach a level not seen since 1994.

The agency also has reported a drop in petroleum consumption, caused by the economic downturn after the 2008 recession, new efficiencies and changes in consumer behavior.

Obama is coming under pressure from some congressional Democrats. Representatives Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Peter Welch of Vermont and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut urged Obama to release crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to stem rising gasoline prices. ( Click here to read their letter to the president.)

"It is essential that the United States have an aggressive strategy for releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to combat the speculators capitalizing on the fear in oil markets and to send a message to Iran that we are ready, willing, and able to deploy our oil reserves," wrote the House Democrats. "Signaling that the United States will continue to employ an aggressive SPR policy in the near term would send a strong signal to oil markets responding to the unrest in the Middle East."

Releasing oil from the SPR has driven down prices in the past, they said. When President George H. W. Bush deployed oil from the SPR in 1991, oil prices immediately dropped by more than 33%. When President Clinton exchanged oil from the SPR in 2000, it again drove prices down by nearly 19%. When President George W. Bush released oil from the reserve in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, oil prices fell by more than 9%. And last year, when President Obama directed the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the SPR--less than 5% of the reserve--in conjunction with the release of an additional 30 million barrels from international partners, prices declined by 8%.