Romney calls out Obama's distortions on decreased oil/gas leasing and permitting

During the second presidential debate last night, Mitt Romney took President Obama and his administration to task for their restrictive and opportunity-killing domestic energy policies — but then Obama tried to double down on the deliberately misleading statistics he likes to use that Romney had just debunked. As Romney argued back, however, the results of the president’s policies and the goals being pursued by the many environmental arms of his bureaucracy speak for themselves.

The initial, simple (and excellent) question from the audience member was, “Your Energy Secretary Steven Chu has now been on record three times, stating it’s not the policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?”

Of course the president does agree with his own appointed Energy Secretary that the department’s job is not to help facilitate American businesses in harnessing energy our resources, but rather believes that it’s the government’s job to engineer the green economy of the left’s socialistic eco-fantasies regardless of “necessarily skyrocketing” energy prices. As Chu has said, what they’d really like to see is even higher gas prices that would force Americans to turn to alternate technologies, no matter the expense. But, the president can’t actually say that, given the deep unpopularity of high gas prices eating into everybody’s disposable incomes and ergo the detrimental effects high energy prices have on the economy, most especially on the poorest among us.

So, the president had to dither about his ostensible “all of the above” energy strategy and threw out some very impressive-sounding statistics about the traditional domestic energy market. Before inevitably getting around to touting his arbitrary vehicle emissions standards and green energy “investments,” he proudly proclaimed that our oil production is the highest its been in sixteen years while our oil imports are at the lowest level they’ve been in the same period of time — as if these indeed-true statistics are somehow due to his own administration’s energy prowess… And this is where Romney, in a beautifully organized takedown, proceeded to rip Obama’s beguiling proclamations to shreds.

“Let’s look at the president’s policies as opposed to the rhetoric, because we’ve had four years of policies being played out. And, the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down fourteen percent on federal land this year, and gas production is down nine percent.” As Romney concedes, yes, oil and gas production are up and running, but this is due mainly to both projects approved by the previous administration (cough, cough) and the auspices of private businesses on private land. The Obama administration used the BP oil spill as a convenient excuse to enforce a virtual moratorium on offshore permitting, and they haven’t lightened up much since then. As Conn Carroll summarizes at the Washington Examiner using data from the Bureau of Land Management,

In 2008 under President Bush, there were a total of 55,085 oil and gas leases in effect on federal land. In 2011 under Obama, there were just 49,174, a decrease of 11 percent. In 2008 under Bush, there were 47.2 million acres of federal land under lease. In 2011 under Obama, there were just 38.5 million, a decrease of 19 percent. In 2008 under Bush, the federal government approved 6,617 oil and gas permits. In 2011 under Obama, the federal government approved just 4,244 permits, a decrease of 36 percent.

And yes, increased domestic oil and liquified natural gas (LNG) production, as well as the increased efficiencies of technological innovation, have contributed to decreased oil imports — but don’t forget that we are in an extended near-recession and are simply consuming less oil. Funny how the president can cite that stat as a positive, when it actually communicates a lot of negatives about the type of economy he’s perpetuated.

In his initial response, Obama also argued that Romney is going to “let oil companies write the energy policies” — what does that even mean? That just because Romney doesn’t want to keep willfully burning cash on renewable “investments,” he wants to get all those eeeevil, greedy oil execs around the rule-writing table and let them have at it? No. Favoring free enterprise and consumer choice is not the same thing as being against green energy in principle, as much as the president and his army of eco-crusaders want us to think that we’d never be capable of producing alternate technologies without the government’s august assistance.

As for coal, it’s also true that the industry that supplies almost half of the United States’ electricity needs is heading into heavy competition from the natural gas industry — but while creative destruction like this might momentarily destroy one type of job, it quickly replaces those lost jobs with productive jobs in new industries and creates economic growth along the way. President Obama’s punishing regulatory regime deliberately designed to clobber the coal industry just kills jobs, while they simultaneously spend our money on subsidizing wind and solar jobs that cannot even sustain themselves in the long term — producing net economic decline.

Obama tries to hit back on Romney’s accurate observations — “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” — but again, Obama ignores the facts about the rates of leasing and permitting that disqualify his claims, and Romney doesn’t let him get away with it. (Also, Obama’s “use-it-or-lose-it,” “you can’t just choose to drill when it’s profitable for you” policy argument, demonstrates a devastatingly pathetic lack of understanding about the way the markets work to everyone’s best advantage.)

As Romney briefly mentions, just look at the boom going on in North Dakota on top of the Bakken shale formation — a product of the state allowing companies to get to work on state lands. Somehow, the state managed to regulate the situation sans any environmental catastrophe, even without the federal government breathing down their neck, and their state unemployment rate is down around three percent. Obama’s federal energy policies have declined to take advantage of the readily available economic opportunities throughout the country, and Romney was right to persist in calling him out on it.

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