A Free-Market Energy Blog

Oil Obama: Political Misdirection (remember Al Gore in 2000)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 26, 2012

“As long as I’m President, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure, and we’re going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people. We don’t have to choose between one or the other, we can do both.”

Will Obama’s audacious oil play prove to be a Dukakis-in-a-tank moment, as his political opposition believes? Whether it is or not, the climate-alarmist Left is steamed. Why? Because the President’s paean to petroleum sets back the idea that big bad oil is on the way out. Game-set-match for the robust continuing carbon-based energy age.

We have come full circle from George W. Bush’s anti-oil moment in his 2006 State of the Union speech when he opined:

We have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

Joe Romm, a perennially angry guy over at Climate Progress, is getting convoluted over the fracturing opposition to dense energy. His latest broadside, “Obama’s Worst Speech Ever: “We’ve Added Enough New Oil And Gas Pipeline To Encircle The Earth”, is reserved for his beloved President:

Obama will … be remembered for a failed presidency simply for failing to seriously fight for a climate bill. And this [Cushing] speech certainly guts any possible claim for a climate legacy.

Remember Albert Gore?

Al Gore as presidential candidate had his ‘Cushing moment’ back in 2000. He said:

I have made it clear in this campaign that I am not calling for any tax increase on gasoline, on oil, on natural gas, or anything else. I am calling for tax cuts to stimulate the production of new sources of domestic energy and new technologies to improve efficiency.

The irony was not lost on Marjorie Williams at the Washington Post:

Vice President Al Gore, who labored under eternal suspicion in the crucial state of Michigan for his writings on the environment, responded to last year’s gas price hikes in the Midwest with consumer-pitying rhetoric that touched on everything but the suggestion that Americans might drive less or consider smaller, more efficient cars. [1]

Like Al Gore on the campaign trail, President Obama is embracing oil. Even before Cushing, Obama said:

Our dependence on foreign oil is down is because of policies put in place by our administration, but also our predecessor’s administration. And whoever succeeds me is going to have to keep it up.

The New Reality

Romm’s friendly readers offered comments of interest. Peter says March 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm:

It’s going to be another 15-20 years before an President makes the kind of speech we at CP want to hear. As much as we all want to see immediate action on climate change its just not going to happen.

Another comment:

… we all need to be a little careful here. As you know if we can’t change the balance of power in the US House and improve in the Senate, President Obama can go nowhere with climate change legislation. We first need to get him reelected.

I have been on your side of this issue for over a decade, and I have come recognize in the past year that for most people to really get behind climate change mitigation, they first need to feel like they have some sense of energy security. Sounds strange but I think it is real. If domestic production helps move climate concerns forward then we need to have domestic production.

And another:

… if Obama had gotten up there today and said he was going to quash the XL because of climate change and stuck to it with gasoline where it is and where its trending for the summer – Obama would get our votes but Mushy Mitt would be in the White House in 2013 courtesy of what the GOP would do to him.

Excerpts from Obama’s Oil Speech

For the record, here are some of the salient parts of Obama’s come-to-Jesus oil moment as quoted in Romm’s piece (March 22, 2011):

I’ve come to Cushing, an oil town — (applause) — because producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. (Applause.)

Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. (Applause.) That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.

So we are drilling all over the place — right now….”

So we are drilling all over the place — right now…. That’s not the challenge. That’s not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go — both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. There’s a bottleneck right here because we can’t get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they’re needed as much as possible.

Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done. (Applause.)

Now, you wouldn’t know all this from listening to the television set. (Laughter.) This whole issue of the Keystone pipeline had generated, obviously, a lot of controversy and a lot of politics. And that’s because the original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America’s croplands. And Nebraskans of all political stripes — including the Republican governor there — raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route.

So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn’t put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project. Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline — not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue, decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.

So what we’ve said to the company is, we’re happy to review future permits. And today, we’re making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority. So the southern leg of it we’re making a priority, and we’re going to go ahead and get that done. The northern portion of it we’re going to have to review properly to make sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected. That’s common sense.

But the fact is that my administration has approved dozens of new oil and gas pipelines over the last three years -– including one from Canada. And as long as I’m President, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure and we’re going to do it in a way that protects the health and safety of the American people. We don’t have to choose between one or the other, we can do both.


[1] Marjorie Williams, “America’s Energy Amnesia,” The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, May 7-13, 2001, p. 26.


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