Energy headlines rise and fall with gas prices, but House Republicans hit cities around the country today to spread the message that a $3.76 per gallon average is a “new normal” that’s simply not acceptable.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his House Energy Action Team (HEAT) fanned out from the Golden State to the Lone Star State and beyond to say there’s a major flaw in President Obama’s professed “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
“In his ‘all of the above,’ he just doesn’t believe about anything from below,” McCarthy said on the road in North Dakota, where he visited an oil rig in this boomtown state with Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.).
Obama, meanwhile, scrambled on the heels of the 2012 American Energy and Jobs Tour by jetting to Iowa today to talk clean energy, weaving the wind push into his “to-do list” for Congress.
“America is now producing more domestic oil than at any time in the last eight years. But we’re also producing more natural gas and biofuels than at any time in our history,” Obama said. “We’re laying the foundation for some of our nation’s first offshore wind farms. And since I became president, America has nearly doubled the use of renewable energy like solar power and wind power.”
Reviving what’s sure to be a fixture on the campaign trail this fall, Obama encouraged the renewal of clean-energy tax credits, for wind farms like the one he spoke at, “because that progress is in jeopardy.”
But Republicans on the road today made clear that they don’t dismiss the value of alternative energy in an all-of-the-above strategy — they want a realistic national energy strategy that acknowledges that America currently gets 85 percent of its energy from fossil fuels.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), touring an oil well in Girard, Kan., with Missouri Rep. Billy Long (R , noted that oil and gas are produced in 89 of Kansas’ 105 countries and the industry supports $2.7 billion in family income in her state.
“New drilling technologies are quickly turning the U.S. into an energy superpower,” Jenkins said.
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) toured an oil rig and met with residents in the Eastern part of his state to talk about high gas prices. Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) toured a hydraulic fracturing site to try to dispel myths that “make you think the world’s going to come to an end every time there’s a hydraulic fracturing operation” in the face of new federal regulatory efforts. Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) held an energy roundtable at a construction company in Greeley, Colo., followed by a tour of a trucking company — two industries acutely affected by energy prices.
The tours were not just about industrial education, but efforts to highlight threats to the respective aspects of the energy business.
Texas Republicans Francisco “Quico” Canseco and Mike Conaway, along with Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), toured an Upton County oil drilling rig and fracking site, noting that overregulation and environmental policies threaten economic growth in the region. Rep. Jeff Dehham (R-Calif.), touring the Valero refinery in Oakland and sitting down with business leaders, noted that refinery shutdowns and mandated “boutique blends” of gas have sent pump prices to $5 a gallon in some spots already.
And Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) met with employees of a Little Rock pipe-manufacturing company that announced it was laying off 60 workers as a result of Obama’s delay of the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Not only are there the jobs of the pipeline, but there are also the secondary effects of the businesses surrounding the pipeline,” Griffin said.
And tomorrow, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will join Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others on a trip out to a platform in the Gulf of Mexico, where lost jobs and runaway rigs have been the result of a permitting slowdown in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill.
“Surely you won’t find oil if the federal government won’t let you,” Scalise told PJM.
McCarthy told PJM that he believes Obama booked his Iowa trip as a defensive move in response to the GOP energy blitz, which had been planned for months.
He said the country disagrees with the president’s policies. “If he’s truly for ‘all of the above,’ why did he do Keystone?” McCarthy said.
When asked about Obama backtracking on Keystone — approving a southern leg of the pipeline while vowing to expedite the approval process for the cross-border section — McCarthy said he didn’t believe Obama had repaired the damage from his original denial.
“I don’t think it’s worked for him,” the Majority Whip said. “The price of gas is still 100 percent higher. We need to have a real policy and this patching that he’s trying to do, with political photo shoots, doesn’t work.”
As the production increases cited regularly by Obama are on private lands, McCarthy noted on the tour that production has “fallen behind” on public lands. The Interior Department released a report last week complaining that too much of the public land leased by oil and gas companies was “idle,” but the congressman noted that the “complete opposite” is going on when producers on private lands aren’t so hamstrung by regulations.
“I think he’s doing that from uncertainty and the regulations that his agencies create,” McCarthy said of the report, adding that a substantial amount of land is walled off from development in the first place and the “permitting process takes so long.”
As Obama touted energy independence while pointing at wind turbines in Iowa — “the less oil we buy from other countries – the more jobs we create at home” — Republicans had already spent the day canvassing the country stressing that independence is right below our feet.
And as Denham noted, the GOP-controlled House has already passed bills promoting domestic oil and gas production and sent them to the Senate, where they gather dust in the chamber of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“This is an opportunity for the American public to say enough is enough,” Denham said.