As Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) sing the praises of President Obama for announcing in his Weekly Address Saturday that we need to increase domestic oil production, don’t be fooled into thinking Obama has suddenly seen the light. Okay, so maybe Obama deserves one resounding “hip, hip” for stating the obvious—though one has to wonder how high he was going to let gas prices rises before doing so.
Speeding up production in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve—a 23 million-acre area in northwest Alaska, about the size of Indiana, and designated a century ago as an important source for U.S oil supply—is important to domestic oil production as even President Obama seems aware. He called for expanding leasing in the reserve during his campaign for president. Secretary of Interior Salazar too has referred to the importance of oil and gas supplies from the reserve, stating early on in the administration:
There are very significant resources that we know are available within the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. We do have a program for leasing the area that has been in place for many years, and our continued effort to provide leasing opportunities in Alaska today is something that is noteworthy.
So why then has Obama prevented that from happening? He not only has failed to keep his promise to extend leasing opportunities within the reserve, he also has halted existing leasing plans, and has turned down permit requests essential to drilling in the area. Only now is he revisiting his initial plan to tap into the National Petroleum Reserve’s promising resources. Similarly, allowing drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is long overdue.
The fact remains, however, that these policies are just a drop in the oil barrel, and that nothing really has changed with Obama’s general energy policy. His goal remains to “break our dependence on oil,” as he said in his State of the Union, and replace it with costly, unviable biofuels, wind, and solar—and it’s all right there in his Saturday address:
As a nation, we should be investing in the clean, renewable sources of energy… That’s why we’re investing in clean energy technology, helping businesses that manufacture solar panels, and wind turbines… That’s an energy policy for the future, and it’s what I’ll be fighting for in the weeks and months to come.
If there’s anyone deserving of three cheers, it’s Chairman Doc Hastings. He’s pushing to increase overall oil and gas capacity in hopes of easing rising gas prices. His three bills, which have passed the House with bipartisan support, would end the offshore drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico, speed up oil and natural gas leas sales in the Gulf and off Virginia’s coast that have been delayed or terminated by the Obama Administration, and allow for safe offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s only because of his legislation that Obama feels any pressure to give the appearance he is addressing the nation’s need for domestic oil production.
If President Obama is truly serious about setting a sound energy policy that will further energy independence and help to bring down gas prices, he will go beyond merely repeating promises that never materialized and utilize our energy sources here at home.