Lousiana lawmakers say President Obama’s Gulf oil production claims are too slick by half


Louisiana lawmakers lambasted President Barack Obama’s remarks Friday about oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as both misleading and misguided.

“The gap continues to widen between what President Obama claims to be true about domestic energy production and what Louisianans know is true,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La. “With prices at the pump climbing toward $4 per gallon, the president is asking us to believe that his administration supports expanded drilling off the Gulf Coast. I guess that’s true only if you don’t actually need a permit.”

“Someone should tell the President that April Fool’s Day is still weeks away,” said Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia. “Today’s news conference is another example of the president misleading the American people regarding his energy policy. While the president touts the highest level of domestic oil and gas production, he fails to mention that his energy policy is causing a decline in production. Each and every day he refuses to – at a minimum – release the 32 permits on hold for almost a year is a day the American people are forced to deal with the price spikes.”

Landry added that the administration “loves to blame other administrations for their failures, they do a real good job of finger-pointing, but sometimes, if you’re going to do that, you should also give credit where credit is due”

Landry said oil production in the Gulf of Mexico peaked because of how aggressive previous administrations were permitting. But he said production was now dropping, and would soon be “falling off a cliff,” thanks to the dearth of new exploration since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“The president’s remarks this afternoon that the idle permit situation isn’t political are wholly untrue,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette. “His mention that production rose last year can be attributed to the developments American energy producers have made in technology, not due to government interference. Since he will not meet with the Louisiana Delegation on the issue, I ask that he meet with the drilling rig workers and service industry employees whose jobs and livelihoods have been put on hold for the past 10 months.”

“I cannot understand why – given the fact that we have the capabilities to produce energy at home – we still rely on other nations to help meet our energy needs,” said Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman. “The situation in Libya has exposed our energy dependence on foreign sources as gas prices have sharply increased yet again. We can strengthen America’s energy security by tapping domestic energy sources that are readily available in the Gulf Coast. Not pursuing this option is irresponsible, and Americans will continue to feel the financial pain at the pumps.”

“Since President Obama took office gas prices have almost doubled and more people than ever are suffering. The president has called oil and gas ‘the energy of yesterday’ but he has failed to provide real solutions for families trying to fill up their tanks,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. “America, and in particular the Gulf Coast, has incredible resources of oil that can be safely extracted and start to bring down energy prices, but only if the president allows it. The president’s refusal to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is costing Louisiana thousands of jobs, and risking our nation’s security by making us even more dependant on foreign sources of oil.”

“While the president insincerely claims that he is encouraging energy production, the fact remains that gas prices have nearly doubled since he took office due to his failed energy policy, and he still refuses to recognize that his reckless policies, like the continued permitorium on deepwater drilling, are directly responsible for the pain that families are experiencing at the pump, as well as the devastating job losses we’ve seen throughout the Gulf of Mexico,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson.

Erik Milito, upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute, also took the president to task for the way he talked about how much oil was being produced in the Gulf.

“Production levels in 2010 are a credit to the vision of previous administrations, which opened areas to development, and to the men and women of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry who have produced more from our resources than anyone anticipated,” said Milito. He said, domestic production of oil will decline from 5.51 million barrels per day in 2010 to 5.4 million barrels per day in 2011 – and 5.27 million barrels per day in 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration.

According to EIA, Milito said, that drop-off will be party because of a decline in production in the Gulf of Mexico of 240,000 barrels per day this year and another 200,000 barrels a day in 2012, as a direct result of the drilling moratorium and the slow pace of permitting that followed, and the years between awarding a lease and actual production.

“We cannot one day decide to move forward with an aggressive production program and have energy starting to flow the next day or week,” Milito said.

At his news conference, the president recalled that, “In this year’s State of the Union address, I set a goal for America: By 2035, 80 percent of our electricity will come from a broad array of clean energy sources – from renewables like wind and solar and homegrown biofuels, along with natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear power.”

Heather Emmert, Gulf States organizer for Environment America, said the president was on the right track in trying to “build a future with clean cars and other transportation choices that will protect Louisiana families from the pollution and irresponsiblity of big oil.”

“President Obama is already harnessing American ingenuity to get off oil, calling for 1 million electric vehicles to be on our roads in the next four years,” said Emmert. “He has also issued new fuel standards for vehicles manufactured through 2016 that will save us more oil than Texas uses every year.”

Landry said he agreed that the president should “focus on responsible and affordable alternative energy sources like nuclear, natural gas, and clean coal.” But he said tax subsidies for wind, solar and experiments like the electric car made no sense.

“We’ve got enough natural gas and coal for the next 200 years, why do we require the American people to continue to pour tax dollars down the toilet?” Landry said.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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