Obama, GOP Trade Barbs on Energy Policy, Gas Prices

February 27, 2012 Updated: February 27, 2012

President Obama on Saturday used his weekly address–essentially a rehash of a speech he gave at the University of Miami last Thursday–to tout a comprehensive energy policy involving clean energy and renewables, while also criticizing the GOP presidential candidates for their message on gas prices.

“If we’re going to take control of our energy future and avoid these gas price spikes down the line, then we need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy–oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more. … That’s the strategy we’re pursuing, and that’s the only real solution to this challenge,” said the president.

He also took direct aim at GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has promised to lower gas prices to $2.50 per gallon, primarily through increasing domestic oil and gas production, replacing the EPA, eliminating regulations on energy production, and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can look forward to $2.50 a gallon gasoline,” Gingrich stated in his introduction at Wednesday’s Arizona debate.

“Now, some politicians always see this as a political opportunity,” Obama said, referring to the nation’s high gas prices. “And since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas. I’ll save you the suspense: Step one is drill, step two is drill, and step three is keep drilling. We hear the same thing every year.”

“Well the American people aren’t stupid. You know that’s not a plan—especially since we’re already drilling. It’s a bumper sticker. It’s not a strategy to solve our energy challenge. It’s a strategy to get politicians through an election.”

The president did not escape the criticism of congressional Republicans. “We can’t slow down global demand for oil and gas, but we can do a lot more here at home to assure that we have the energy we need and to halt skyrocketing costs,” said Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the weekly Republican address.

“Offshore drilling permits are being issued at less than half the rate of the previous administration. The average number of leases issued on public lands is less than half than during President Clinton’s term,” she concluded.

She also chastised the Obama administration for not authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will transport oil extracted from the Athabasca Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. Supporters argue that the pipeline would provide thousands of jobs, as well as decrease the nation’s dependence on oil from overseas.

The administration, for its part, has decided to put off the decision to allow the construction of the pipeline until at least 2013. Critics of the pipeline argue that the pipeline would only increase the nation’s dependence on nonrenewable energy sources, and that it would have a negligible impact on gasoline prices in the near term.

Environmental activists are also concerned the impact of a potential leak in the pipeline, which would contaminate the water in Ogallala Aquifer in the Midwest. The pipeline’s creator TransCanada offered to reroute the pipeline, if approved.

Former governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hesitated to hold the president responsible for gas prices, saying “I think the American people know that to a certain degree gas prices are driven by what’s happening around the world, supply and demand.” He did, however, criticize the president for the Keystone decision.

The national average cost of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is currently $3.69, up from $3.39 a month ago, and higher than the average cost of $3.33 a year ago.