When Mitt Romney noted in a CNBC interview last week that “people recognize that the president can’t precisely set the price at the pump,” I was pretty hard on him. The comment played into the president’s, “It’s not my fault” theme, and I wanted to see Romney call the president out for exerting unwarranted control over the energy sector of the economy by increasing drilling regulations and by favoring alternative energy companies with subsidies that repeatedly proved to be poor investments for taxpayers.

Apparently, Romney recently did just that. The AP reports:

Romney, the front-runner in the Republican presidential field, said Obama has tried to shirk his responsibility for increases in the price of gas, which could threaten to upend some recent improvements in the nation’s economy.

“He says ‘it’s not my fault,'” Romney said during a campaign stop on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. “This is in part his fault. This is a guy who has slowed down … the licensing and permitting of offshore rigs, of onshore drilling.” …

Speaking against the backdrop of massive oil rigs in the Port of Pascagoula, Romney renewed his calls for accelerating drilling permits and pledged to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from the U.S. to Canada. Approving the project, Romney said, should be a “no-brainer.”

This was Romney’s best showing on the subject so far. The substance of his speech was much the same as it was in other remarks (in fact, he might have been more detailed in his disdain for the president’s policies in the CNBC interview), but he didn’t give the president a single sentence to work with to be able to excuse himself. (My fear after the CNBC interview was an Obama ad that said, “Even Mitt Romney says the president can’t precisely set the price at the pump.”)

The president continues to excuse himself, though — and even to claim that he’s doing something to bring prices down. (What? Calling for increased subsidies?)

Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to underscore his administration’s work to develop alternative energy sources and increase fuel efficiency.

“I’m going to keep doing everything I can to help you save money on gas, both right now and in the future,” Obama said. “I hope politicians from both sides of the aisle join me.” …

“We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices — not when we consume 20 percent of the world’s oil,” Obama said in the address, recorded during a visit Friday to a Virginia jet engine component plant.

Well, no, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices now — but what if we had opened ANWR 10 years ago? What if we had put the Gulf back to work more promptly after the BP oil spill? What if we opened our eyes to the wonders of horizontal drilling, instead of drumming up every last little possible objection to the new technique? The president is very short-sighted if he is unwilling to take a single step to ensure we won’t be so at the mercy of Middle Eastern oil in the future.

The point is, at every point, the president has pursued energy policies that reward his favored energy producers and punish his least favorite — and all of those policies plainly are driven more by the desire to reward and punish than by the desire to ensure Americans have access to affordable energy. His energy secretary has admitted as much. The president has to explain himself — and, if he won’t, then the GOP candidates must.