Editorial: Romney gets in Obama's face over lies on energy

Back in September 2008 during the good ol’ days of Hopenchange, then-candidate Barack Obama gave the following instructions to one of his adoring crowds in Nevada:

“I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face.”

When it came to the issue of federal permitting for oil and gas development, Republican nominee Mitt Romney took that advice during the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 and produced one of the most compelling moments in the history of such events when he stepped across the town hall stage and peppered Obama with the facts of his disastrous energy policy.

In the town hall format, Obama was at his best. Unfortunately, Obama’s best means he’s at his most demagogic and dishonest. Throughout this campaign, about the only accurate thing that has come out of this president’s mouth is: “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message.”

Other than that, it’s been an avalanche of lies and distortions about Romney that have unraveled in the space of just two 90-minute debates. One of his bigger whoppers has been exposed in both of them.

Obama repeated his assertion that oil and gas production has increased in the U.S. under his watch. Romney, just as he debunked that claim in the first debate, again refused to let Obama get away with it and pointed out that the increase in domestic production is entirely attributable to development on private lands, not public.

Romney correctly cited the U.S. Energy Department’s own numbers that oil production on federal lands was down 14 percent and gas production was down 11 percent in 2011. Romney also claimed that federal permits for oil and gas on and offshore have been cut in half.

“Not true, Governor,” said Obama with a typically flippant gesture.

“So how much did you cut it by?” Romney asked.

Five times, Romney asked Obama by how much he’s cut back on issuing drilling permits and leases. Finally cornered, Obama went into some nonsensical answer about “use it or lose it” that bore no resemblance to an answer.

It’s not surprising that President You Didn’t Build That would have a hard time distinguishing the difference between public and private lands, or that he would have no shame about taking credit for energy successes he had nothing to do with.

According to a CNN fact check, federal leases are down 42 percent from President George W. Bush and drilling permits are down 37 percent. But that’s not “half,” so those objective fact checkers at CNN rated the claim as “off the mark.”

In the world of fast-and-loose political statements, I’d call Romney’s attack on Obama “close enough.”

After all, it was the Obama administration that issued illegal offshore drilling moratoriums in the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaska outercontinental shelf following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

It is the Obama administration that refused to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have created 20,000 construction jobs in the U.S. and provided hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from a friendly and stable source.

It is the Obama administration that just withdrew half the area from the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and chose a plan that could prevent a pipeline from being built across the Slope from the Chukchi Sea to TAPS.

It is the Obama administration’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that has blown off issuing a record of decision for Point Thomson, costing the state about 1,000 construction jobs this winter.

The same Obama administration, though, from the same Interior Department that is closing off half of NPR-A, just announced a streamlined process for approving solar farms on public lands. The day of the second debate, another one of Obama’s green energy project companies, A123, filed for bankruptcy.

As Romney has pointed out more than once, you can’t run a car on wind. Obama is proving that you can run a campaign on it though.

Updated: 
10/17/2012 - 8:47pm

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