Putting energy policy on the front-burner

PUTTING ENERGY POLICY ON THE FRONT-BURNER…. The Republicans’ drive to blame the White House for rising gas prices spans the spectrum, from the deeply silly to the conspiratorial and offensive, but the larger campaign is hard to miss.

What’s important, though, is separating fact from fiction, which some outlets prefer not to do. Politico reported yesterday that there are two sides to this — we have House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who argues that the administration’s “moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf,” as well as the president’s “decision to cancel leases on drilling in national parks, has contributed to the rising prices,” while the White House points to “turmoil” in the Middle East to explain “the rise in prices.”

Which is it? Politico doesn’t say — it tells the reader what both sides think, and if you want to know the truth, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

For his part, President Obama pushed back against GOP talking points today, with remarks that not only presented a compelling agenda, but had the added benefit of being true.

“Now, the hard truth is, is that as long as our economy depends on foreign oil, we’ll always be subject to price spikes. So we’ve got to get moving on a comprehensive energy strategy that pursues both more energy production and more energy conservation. We need to increase our access to secure energy supplies in the near term, and we’ve got to make our economy more energy-efficient and energy-independent over the long run.

“Let me be more specific. First, we need to continue to boost domestic production of oil and gas. Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. Let me repeat that. Our oil production reached its highest level in seven years. Oil production from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico reached an all-time high. For the first time in more than a decade, imports accounted for less than half of what we consumed.

“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. We’re just doing it responsibly.”

And what about the future? The president added that we “can’t place our long-term bets on a finite resource that we only control 2 percent of — especially a resource that’s vulnerable to hurricanes, war, and political turmoil.”

“So beyond increased domestic production, if we want to secure our long-term prosperity and protect the American people from more severe oil shocks in the future, the way to do it is to gradually reduce demand and then do everything we can to break our dependence on oil. […]

“But the bottom line is this. We’ve been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up; politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we’re shocked. I think the American people are tired of that.”

Obama talked about new efficiency standards, automotive innovation, and clean energy investments, all with the intention of “securing America’s energy future.”

And then we have his detractors on the right, who say, “Just drill a whole bunch and everything will work out fine.”

This is obviously a debate worth having. I’m just not sure Republicans are up to the task.