Obama’s gasoline excuse machine
President’s effort to shore up energy strategy not going down well
President Obama noticed spiraling gasoline prices have opened a hole in his bid for a second term in the White House large enough to drive a fuel tanker through. American voters ought not to let the president fill that void with lame excuses or empty promises. There’s only one way to prove his leadership for another four years will pull gas costs back from the red zone: Let the oil flow.
Prices at the pump have soared to near-record levels, now averaging $3.84 a gallon nationwide. GOP presidential candidates have correctly laid blame at the Oval Office door. Mr. Obama has fired back that there’s “no silver bullet” that will bring down gas prices. Sticking to his guns, he lobbied Democratic senators earlier this month to block Republican efforts to resurrect the proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have supplied the United States with 700,000 barrels of Canadian crude a day.
The “no silver bullet” argument has proved to be a dud, however, as polls show Americans overwhelmingly blame the president for expensive gas. A recent Washington POST/ABC News poll found two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way he is handling this pocketbook issue.
The president has boasted that domestic oil production has risen since he took office in 2009 but fails to mention that operations on private lands are responsible for the increase. The amount of petroleum extracted from federal lands — under White House jurisdiction — actually fell 13 percent in 2011, according to the Institute for Energy Research. Tumbling in tandem is oil yield from the Gulf of Mexico, dropping from a third of the nation’s total to a quarter since Mr. Obama clamped down on offshore drilling following the 2010 BP oil spill. His overall approval rating likewise has skidded 9 points in the past month to a dismal 41 percent, according to a recent New York Times/cbs News survey.
Mr. Obama has taken to charging that his GOP presidential challengers act as if they can wave “a magic wand” and provide an endless supply of cheap gas. Meanwhile, he has conjured some magic of his own, pressuring Saudi Arabia to sell the United States more petroleum, and the kingdom has responded by boosting shipments by 25 percent since the beginning of the year. Increased supply is meant to lower gas prices by easing oil-market jitters over potential disruptions arising from Iran’s nuclear program. So far, it hasn’t worked.
During his Saturday radio address, Mr. Obama vilified Big Oil and urged Congress to end its annual tax breaks worth $4 billion: “Your member of Congress should be fighting for you, not for big financial firms. Not for big oil companies.” Killing the tax deductions would only make gas even costlier as companies pass along the costs to consumers.
Inhibiting domestic oil production and increasing energy dependency on unfriendly regimes consigns the nation to persistent economic hardship. It doesn’t take a wizard to divine what polls are saying: If you want a second term, put down the magic wand, drilling bans and green fantasies. Let the free market provide affordable gas.