In the face of rising gas prices and outspoken criticism from the oil and gas industry, President Obama outlined major campaign proposals for energy and drilling today at a speech at the University of Miami.
“It is great to be back in sunny Florida,” the President said. “I still don’t know how you all make it to class every day down here.”
He then went on to expand on some policies he initially introduced during his State of the Union speech in January.
First on his list? Eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies. “Right now, four billion of your tax dollars subsidize the oil industry every year,” Obama said. “It’s time to end taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.” He also called on Congress to renew tax breaks for wind energy development that are set to expire at the end of the year.
Obama also said he would work to bring down gas prices that have skyrocketed in recent weeks. He said “while there are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices,” that he’s tasked his team with finding ways to get prices down “from permitting to delivery bottlenecks to what’s going on in the oil markets.”
Obama touted a new agreement with Mexico to drill for oil and natural gas, and reaffirmed his commitment to natural gas drilling in the country. “We’re taking every possible action to safely develop a near hundred-year supply of natural gas – something that experts believe will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade,” he said. To that end, he announced a new “research competition” from the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) to find ways to better use natural gas for vehicles. (Honda has already released a Civic model that runs on natural gas.)
The President also said he would continue support research on turning algae into fuel. “Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17% of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in America,” he said.
“None of these steps I’ve talked about today represent the silver bullet that will bring down gas prices tomorrow, or reduce our dependence on foreign oil overnight,” the President said. “And that’s because there is no silver bullet. There never has been.”
But the drilling industry seems unimpressed. David Blackmon, Texas spokesperson for the American Natural Gas Alliance, a group that represents many major gas companies, says that the President is sending mixed signals to the industry. “We remain very encouraged by the President’s stated desire to take advantage of the nation’s incredible abundance of clean burning natural gas,” he said in a statement to StateImpact Texas. “However, it is somewhat disconcerting that, in almost his very next breath, he talks about levying massive tax increases on the same industry that must have capital to invest in drilling the wells to produce this natural gas, in order to pay for subsidies for other, non-competitive fuel sources. The Administration appears to want to have it both ways where natural gas is concerned, which is not a policy based in economic reality.”
And at an oil and gas conference in Houston Wednesday, several speakers openly criticized the President for his energy policy.
“These have been the most difficult three years from a policy standpoint that I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Bruce Vincent, president of Houston-based oil and natural gas producer Swift Energy, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “They’ve done nothing but restrict access and delay permitting. The Obama Administration, unfortunately, has threatened this industry at every turn,” he said.
And the same goes for one of his potential opponents in the presidential election this fall. A spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign sad the President’s energy platform means “more debt, more deficits, and decline.” The campaign is criticizing Obama for failing to reduce the trillion-dollar deficit.