Out of Excuses: As Consensus Grows for More Production, Obama Continues to Delay Drilling Permits

NRCC - As gas stands at $3.56/gallon nationwide, Obama has tried to fashion himself as a defender of domestic energy production, despite his administration’s deliberate delay in issuing new drilling permits.

GAS AT $3.56/GALLON NATIONWIDE, UP FROM $2.79/GALLON A YEAR AGO (“Daily Fuel Gage Report, Current Average, Regular,” AAA, Accessed 3/14/11)

OBAMA: “First, we need to continue to boost domestic production of oil and gas…So any notion that my administration has shut down oil production might make for a good political sound bite but it doesn't match up with reality. We are encouraging offshore exploration and production.” (Remarks from President Obama, White House Press Conference, 3/11/2011)

Former President Bill Clinton wasn’t buying Obama’s spin, though, and publicly criticized the administration’s refusal to issue new drilling permits as “ridiculous” and harmful to the nation’s economy:

“Former President Bill Clinton said Friday that delays in offshore oil and gas drilling permits are “ridiculous” at a time when the economy is still rebuilding, according to attendees at the IHS CERAWeek conference.” (Darren Goode, “Bill Clinton: Drilling Delays ‘Ridiculous’,” Politico, 3/11/2011)

Meanwhile, a new poll out Monday morning showed nearly 70 percent of Americans support increasing offshore drilling.

“By a 66-25 percent margin, likely voters say President Obama should encourage more oil and gas exploration offshore…” (Ben Geman, “THE HILL POLL: Drill More to Ease Energy Crisis, Voters Say,” The Hill, 3/14/2011)

These developments come after a federal judge ordered the Obama administration to accelerate its review of drilling permits, calling delays “unreasonable, unacceptable, and unjustified by the evidence”—a ruling the Obama administration is challenging:

“‘The permitting backlog becomes increasingly inexcusable,’ the judge said. ‘Delays of four months and more in the permitting process are unreasonable, unacceptable and unjustified by the evidence.’” (Editorial Board, “U.S. Interior Department Needs to Move on Drilling Permits,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/4/2011)

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION APPEALS RULING: “U.S. offshore regulators asked a New Orleans appellate court to postpone a judge’s March 19 deadline for them to act on certain Gulf of Mexico drilling permits delayed by the Obama Administration’s drilling ban.” (Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Allen Johnson Jr., “U.S. Appeals for Delay in 30-Day Order on Drill Permits,” Bloomberg, 3/11/11)

The ruling was initially prompted by the Obama administration’s “de facto moratorium”—lifting the ban on drilling but refusing to issue any permits, thereby squandering potential production and forcing businesses into bankruptcy:

OBAMA INSTITUTES “DE FACTO MORATORIUM”: “Gulf state lawmakers and the oil industry have accused the department of dragging its feet on the permits, enacting a de facto moratorium against new drilling, while the department has said it needs to ensure that safety and environmental protections are in place.” (Dan Berman and Darren Goode, “Interior Appeals Oil Drilling Ruling,” Politico, 3/4/2011)

“But the nation's second largest shallow-water driller, Seahawk, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, citing a lack of permits.

“The Energy Information Administration estimated the country would lose 74,000 barrels a day in oil production in 2011 as a result of a six-month drilling moratorium.” (Steve Hargreaves, “Court Orders Obama to Act on Permits,” CNN, 2/21/2011)

This anti-energy Obama policy has drawn widespread criticism for its harsh economic impact, uniting Republicans, Democrats and Gulf state editorial boards:

NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE: “The government has argued that the moratorium, which officially ended in October, and the slow approval of permits since have been needed to implement new safety standards after the BP oil spill. Gulf Coast residents want to avoid another disaster, indeed. But experts and independent scientists have long laid out how some rigs could have resumed safe drilling without the broad disruption the Obama administration imposed.

“But the bottom line, as Judge Feldman ruled, is that the government has not presented enough evidence to justify months of delays on individual permits.” (Editorial Board, “U.S. Interior Department Needs to Move on Drilling Permits,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/4/2011)

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): “The secretary faced the most scorn from Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has been a staunch opponent of the Obama administration’s stance on drilling after the BP oil spill last spring…

“‘What I [am] hearing from the industry is uncertainty,’ she said. ‘In January 2009 there were 16 permits issued. The next year there were 12 and this January, only two. We’re so far off the historic level. We’ve got to get it back up as quickly as possible.’” (Amanda Carey, “Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu Grills Salazar on Offshore Drilling,” The Daily Caller, 3/2/2011)

But as high oil prices threaten the nation’s economic recovery, Obama’s ideological agenda on domestic energy production no longer threatens just jobs in the Gulf Coast—it is a threat to economic recovery nationwide.

GAS PRICE SPIKE “AFFECTS JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING”: “Gas prices have jumped nearly 40 cents in a month and the pain at the pump affects just about everything.

“Airline tickets are up $60 to $100 compared to last year. Food prices are up more than 2 percent in a month…

“In fact, at one grocery store, employees were busy changing 785 price tags on Tuesday. Last week, they changed between 300 and 400 prices.” (Paula Morehouse, “Pain at the Pump Spreads,” KY3 News, 3/8/2011)

“‘Never in the 22 years that I've been doing business here in Arizona have we been affected by both the weather and now the gas situation,’ says Ted Palmisano with Peddler's Son Produce.”

“Palmisano says that shoppers need to brace themselves for bigger grocery bills once fuel costs trickle down.” (“Costlier Groceries a Side Effect of Gas Prices,” Fox Phoenix, 3/7/2011)

CONSUMERS SHIFTING BUYING HABITS: “The impact at the pump is now a habit changer.

“‘I've already changed my habits a little bit, I rode my bike down here,’ said Peter Wills of Portland.” (Joe Smith, “Oregon Sees Ripple Effect of High Gas Prices,” KGW News Channel 8, 3/7/2011)

“Discount food chains, like Food 4 Less and Winco here in the Valley are noticing an uptick, in shoppers.

“‘Yeah we are getting new customers coming in, they do save money because you have to bag your own groceries,’ said Jessica Fain, a cashier at Food 4 Less.” (“Valley Shoppers Worried About Higher Food Prices,” KMPH Fox 26, 3/5/2011)

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