The President’s Wacky Oil Plan

by William Yeatman on March 31, 2011

in Blog, Features

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I’m still trying to wrap my head around the President’s energy speech yesterday. I get the goal: Reduce oil imports 30 percent in a decade. But what I don’t get, at all, is the plan to achieve that goal. The President’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” doesn’t make any sense.

Consider, for example, his “Blueprint” for oil. It’s all over the place.

In the beginning of the speech, the President mocked the idea of “drill, baby, drill.” He said,

“We’ve been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon…It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was at the height of the political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three point plans for two dollar gas—you remember ‘drill, baby, drill?’—when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.”

So, the President believes that “drill, baby, drill” would not “do anything to solve the problem.” Yet only moments later, he seemed to change his mind. He told the audience,

“Meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.”

So, the President believes that “meeting this new goal…depends largely on…finding more oil at home.” But “finding more oil” necessarily requires more drilling. How is this different from “drill, baby, drill,” which the President only moments before had denigrated?

As if this wasn’t confusing enough, the President then tacked again. His strategy for “finding more oil at home” (a.k.a. “drill, baby, drill”) is actually a sleight of hand meant to obfuscate the bureaucratic foot-dragging that has resulted in a de facto moratorium on new domestic oil and gas production. The President said,

“In fact, we are pushing the oil industry to take advantage of the opportunities they already have. Right now, the industry holds tens of millions of acres of leases where it’s not producing a drop—sitting on supplies of American energy just waiting to be tapped. That’s why part of our plan is to provide new and better incentives that promote rapid, responsible development of these resources.”

In this passage, the President was citing a highly politicized report that the Department of the Interior had issued a day earlier, claiming that more than 50 percent of oil and gas leases were “idle.” Setting aside the absurdity of the notion that energy companies are intentionally forgoing profits by sitting on valuable reserves, the Department of Interior report omits mention that many of these leases are idled because the Interior Department won’t approve exploration plans. That is, they are idled due to the Interior Department’s delaying tactics. These sorts of machinations, writ large, have reduced oil production in the Gulf of Mexico 300,000 barrels a day.

To recap the madcap: First, the President mocked “Drill, Baby, Drill.” Then, he recommended “finding and producing more oil at home,” which is synonymous with “Drill, Baby, Drill.” Finally, he pitched a plan that is in fact political cover for his Administration’s de facto moratorium on domestic energy production.

At the outset of his energy speech, President  Obama said that he intends to “get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy.” He proceeded to describe a wacky oil “Blueprint” that is far from serious.

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