GOP, oil in­dus­try call for gas pro­duc­tion hike to curb prices

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY MATTHEW DALY

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and oil in­dus­try lead­ers called Wed­nes­day for more U.S. gas pro­duc­tion to counter ris­ing prices, which are fast be­com­ing an is­sue in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Democrats fo­cused on con­ser­va­tion and the role of Wall Street spec­u­la­tors in driv­ing up prices.

Jack N. Ger­ard, CEO of the Amer­i­can Petroleum In­sti­tute, told a House en­ergy panel the na­tion has vast en­ergy re­sources that aren’t be­ing fully tapped. New leas­ing on fed­eral lands is down by 44 per­cent, and the num­ber of new wells drilled is down 39 per­cent, Mr. Ger­ard as­serted.

And while Pres­i­dent Obama calls for “all-of-the-above” en­ergy ap­proach, he has threat­ened the oil and gas in­dus­try with bil­lions of dol­lars in tax in­creases, Mr. Ger­ard said.

“Mr. Chair­man, this is send­ing the wrong mes­sage to the global mar­kets. This needs to change,” Mr. Ger­ard said, re­fer­ring to Mr. Obama’s call to end tax breaks and gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for the oil and gas in­dus­try that av­er­age about $4 bil­lion a year.

Democrats said oil pro­duc­tion has in­creased since Mr. Obama took of­fice. They blamed the re­cent spike in gas prices on ten­sions in the Mid­dle East and spec­u­la­tion by Wall Street in­vestors.

Oil prices rose above $105 a bar­rel Wed­nes­day, up from $75 in Oc­to­ber, be­cause of diplo­matic ten­sions with Iran, a ma­jor oil pro­ducer, and as U.S. eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors in­clud­ing em­ploy­ment have slowly im­proved over the past few months.

Gas prices have jumped 48 cents since Jan. 1 to an av­er­age $3.76 per gal­lon.

Ris­ing gas prices have be­come a con­cern at the White House, where Obama aides worry the in­creases could hurt an eco­nomic re­cov­ery that has been im­prov­ing and also harm the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion prospects.

Mr. Obama was in North Carolina on Wed­nes­day pro­mot­ing fu­el­ef­fi­cient cars and tax in­cen­tives he con­tends will help re­duce de­pen­dency on for­eign oil. He has called for 1 mil­lion plug-in ve­hi­cles on Amer­i­can roads by 2015.

Rep. Fred Up­ton, a Michi­gan Re­pub­li­can and chair­man of the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, said Mr. Obama has re­cently “be­gun to say some of the right things about high gas prices, but he con­tin­ues to do all of the wrong things.”

While Mr. Obama boasts that do­mes­tic drilling is up, he ne­glects to men­tion that most of the in­crease is on pri­vate and state-owned lands, Mr. Up­ton said, not­ing that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has can­celed oil leases on fed­eral lands.

Rep. Henry A. Wax­man, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said GOP calls to in­crease drilling were all too fa­mil­iar.

“We’ve seen this movie be­fore,” Mr. Wax­man said. “The re­al­ity is that gas prices have risen be­cause of global mar­kets.”

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