Vitter said he’s received no direct response from the White House on his bill. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from colleagues and constituents,” he added.
“It’s pretty clear Obama’s merely going to try to manipulate price” if he taps into the reserve, “even though there’s no strategic reason for a release, which is what the reserve was intended for,” Vitter said.
Skyrocketing gas prices heading into campaign season could spell trouble for the president if pain at the pump increases.
“I don’t have a crystal ball but certainly it’s normal for [gas prices] to go up and bump up in the summer,” Vitter said of the potential trajectory of prices in the coming months. “I certainly think the administration realizes that and is pretty scared of that as a political issue.”
The senator called a White House spokesman’s assertion Friday that the extension of the payroll tax cut put money back into Americans’ pockets to help cushion the blow from rising gas prices “silly.”
“Extending that current cut is not giving Americans any more than they have now in their pockets,” he said.
Vitter said America has suffered from bad energy policy for three years, with the pace of permitting since the 2010 BP oil spill down 30 to 40 percent and the outer continental shelf lease plan at half of the previous plan.
As the Gulf state most impacted by the spill, Vitter said his constituents want to get back to production.
“Obviously Louisiana was the most impacted by the environmental damage, so we don’t take that lightly,” he said. “People know we need to get back to a healthy level of energy production … it’s a big hit on our economy.”
The Keystone debacle, the senator said, is just another misstep by this administration that has made energy policy and America’s energy security worse.
“They could be expanding domestic production,” Vitter noted. “We’re the only country in world that takes 95 percent of our energy resources and puts them off limits.”
Also influenced by the environmental lobby, he said, the Obama administration is trying to put the brakes on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and natural gas. “The EPA is threatening to shut that process down while there’s no scientific basis for it,” he said.
“Under their leadership, we’re moving in the wrong direction in terms of domestic energy production,” Vitter said.