While President Obama has been bragging across the stump that domestic oil production is at an 8-year high — without clarification that this is due to leases on private land — the Bureau of Land Management reports that the amount of federal acreage leased for energy production is at its lowest point since 1984.
A clever way to reverse that trend while tapping into election-year fears about high gas prices is advancing through the House.
Freshman Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced in March, at the height of the Keystone fury and soaring pump prices, a “compensatory production increase plan” that would place conditions on President Obama should he decide to dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Once the president decides to access the SPR, the secretaries of Energy, Agriculture, and the Interior would have 180 days to formulate a plan for new energy leases on federal land — and the production would have to equal that which is sapped from the reserve.
“It gets beyond the quick-fix policies of President Obama,” Gardner told PJM. “It actually moves to a long-term supply solution.”
The legislation was marked up in the Subcommittee on Energy and Power this week, and should be marked up by the full Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Gardner is a member, within the next couple of weeks. The congressman expects the bill to make it to the House floor — for what should be a “great debate” — before Memorial Day, when summer travelers will likely face stinging costs to fill up the tank and candidate Obama will face fresh temptation to drive prices down.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, when pressed by a reporter Tuesday, said he had “no new information” on whether oil will be released from the SPR.
“I’ve made clear that we don’t rule out that action or others that we could potentially take, even as we make clear and the president makes clear that there is no single action that can magically drop the price at the pump that is causing a burden for American families,” Carney said.
Gardner has no doubts that the president would take a swig from the reserve to ease gas prices during the election cycle.
“It’s a trend with this president who’s willing to do anything for politics,” he said.