Obama, Romney Spar Long Distance on Energy

George E. Condon Jr.
March 2, 2012

President Obama on Thursday called for an end to tax subsidies for oil companies as he and and Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed long distance over energy policy. The president appealed to New Hampshirites to use their “political-bull detector” when listening to his critics, and Romney told North Dakota voters that Obama “should be hanging his head” because of his energy failures.

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The president and the former Massachusetts governor were separated by much more than the 1,311 miles between Nashua and Fargo. They also presented starkly different views of what is needed to bring down gasoline prices and achieve energy independence. Romney demanded that Washington liberate drillers from onerous regulations and open up more federal lands to drilling, while also approving the controversial Keystone pipeline to bring oil from Canada. But, without naming Romney or any other Republican candidate, Obama mocked their prescription as “these magic, three-point plans to make sure you're only paying $2-a-gallon gas.”

“Step one is drill; step two is drill; and step three is keep drilling. And, by the way, we’ll drill in your backyard,” he told students at Nashua Community College, appealing to voters to understand the solution is not that simple.

“Your political-bull detector is pretty keen, pretty sharp,” Obama said. “You know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets.”

“Anyone who tells you we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Or they are not telling you the truth,” he added.

Obama also aggressively went after Republican efforts to capitalize on the recent rapid escalation in prices at the pump. “I know this is hard to believe, but some politicians are seeing higher gas prices as a political opportunity,” he said to laughter. “You’re shocked, I know. But it’s true. And right in the middle of an election year. Who would’ve thought?”

Highlighting a proposal he raised in his State of the Union address, the president called on Congress to strip tax breaks and subsidies from the oil companies, which he said currently total $4 billion a year.

“Does anyone really think Congress should give them another $4 billion dollars this year?” he asked. "Of course not. That’s outrageous. It’s inexcusable. And I am asking Congress to eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday rejected Obama’s plan to eliminate Big Oil’s tax subsidies, saying it would end up increasing gas prices. He urged the president to work more closely with Republicans.

Obama brought a colorful chart designed to demonstrate that the country is less reliant on foreign oil imports than it was before he took office. The president has previously noted that trend line. But, after Republican criticism this week, the president this time shared credit with former President George W. Bush, saying the improvement was partly “because of policies put in place by our administration but also our predecessor’s administration.”

In Fargo, Romney would give Obama none of the credit. “He is responsible for it not being as much of an increase as it could have been,” he said. “He doesn’t get credit for the increase; he, instead, has tried to slow the growth of oil and gas production in this country, and coal production in this country. So far from taking credit, he should be hanging his head and taking a little bit of the blame for what’s going on today.”

Romney said the administration should “open up our resources, open up federal lands for drilling, open up ANWAR, open up offshore drilling.” He added, “This is a president who does not understand energy. He is the problem. He is not the solution.”