The Nerve: Obama Takes Credit for America’s Energy Independence
"Suddenly America is like the biggest oil producer, the biggest gas producer,” said Barack Obama in an impromptu remark at Rice University on Tuesday. “That was me, people." After a minute of additional economic boasts, Obama instructed the audience, “Say ‘thank you.’”
Here was the essential Obama on display: smug, verbally maladroit, and shockingly dishonest. If America increased its energy production while Obama was in the White House, it was despite of his policies, not because of them. In a June 2010 speech after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama reminded America that “part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean -- because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.”
In scolding America for its dependence on cheap oil, Obama rolled out all the self-hating green clichés: we consume ten times more than we produce; we need to end our “century-long addiction to fossil fuels; oil is a finite resource.” Implicit in the speech was the idea that consuming oil was in itself an evil like, say, shooting heroin or watching Fox News. After listing some alternative approaches to energy production, Obama claimed to be open to new ideas “as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.”
One of those new ideas had taken root in the Bay Area. Obama was still pumped from his visit to California a month earlier. “Less than a year ago, we were standing on what was an empty lot,” Obama boasted in May 2010. “But through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations. This new factory is the result of those loans.”
The loan from U.S. Energy Department came to a cool $536 million. Captivated by his own vision for America, Obama made the prophetic comment that would haunt him until other, graver scandals buried this one, “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.”
Fast-forward two-plus years to the second presidential debate, this one moderated, if that is the correct word, by CNN’s Candy Crowley.
“So here's what I've done since I've been president,” said the anti-oil crusader, “We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.” In his turn, Romney observed that Obama had done everything he could to block the production of oil, and none of the growth had taken place on federal lands.
Obama shot back, “Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration.” Added Obama, “You need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that's what we're going to do in the next four years.” This led to a fiery and telling exchange:
ROMNEY: But that's not what you've done in the last four years. That's the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.
OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.
ROMNEY: So how much did you cut?
OBAMA: Not true.
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by, then?
OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil --
ROMNEY: No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?
Romney had Obama on the ropes. This time, Crowley did not jump into the ring to tag-team Romney the way she had on the Benghazi question. The president lapsed into some tedious detail hoping the bell or something like it would ring. It did not, and Romney kept up the attack.
ROMNEY: No, no, I had a question and the question was how much did you cut them by?
OBAMA: You want me to answer a question --
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?
OBAMA: I'm happy to answer the question.
ROMNEY: All right. And it is --
OBAMA: Production is up.
ROMNEY: -- is down.
OBAMA: No, it isn't.
ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.
OBAMA: Governor --
ROMNEY: And production on gas --
OBAMA: It's just not true.
ROMNEY: It's absolutely true.
In judging the truthfulness of the participants, FactCheck.org gave the decision to Romney. Obama wrongly denied Romney’s claim that the Obama administration cut in half the number of new permits and new leases for offshore drilling. The decrease, said FactCheck, was “actually more than half.”
Obama was also wrong when he said it’s “just not true” that domestic oil production on federal lands was down 14 percent. Said FactCheck, production “did indeed fall by those percentages as Romney said.” What FactCheck missed was the larger deception: Obama was boasting about an energy source that he thought both evil and exhausted just two years prior.
Although not well versed in crude oil, Obama proved a successful enough salesman of snake oil to secure the White House for another four years. As his Winter Solstice present to his progressive friends a month before he left office, Obama used an obscure 1953 law to block the sale of new leases in the Chuckchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska as well as 31 underwater canyons in the Atlantic.
The Chuckchi Sea might be the largest untapped source of crude oil in the entire world. No matter. What with the “marine mammals” in the neighborhood and worries about “the wildlife habitat,” Obama shut it down, reassuring his friends on the left that he was still one of them.
Thank you, Barack Obama.