An incoherent GOP message on energy

AN INCOHERENT GOP MESSAGE ON ENERGY…. A couple of weeks ago, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) tried to argue, in all seriousness, that higher gas prices is the result of a deliberate conspiracy. The Obama administration, the far-right governor argued, wants gas prices to go up, and is forcing them higher on purpose as part of some extreme environmental agenda.

Even for the GOP, this was pretty absurd, but I get the sense it’s poised to become a standard talking point. Over the weekend, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) delivered the official weekly Republican address, and hinted in the same direction.

“Some in Washington believe higher oil and gas prices, driven even higher by proposed new taxes, are needed to make Americans behave the way they think they should. Higher energy prices are their explicit goal.”

Murkowski didn’t identify who these people are who want higher gas prices, but I think we’re supposed to assume she’s talking about those rascally Democrats.

A day later, both of the Senate’s top Republican leaders were on the Sunday shows, not necessarily endorsing the conspiracy theory, but nevertheless blaming the White House for gas prices. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted the administration on Fox News for “shutting down wells” in the Gulf of Mexico, just because one happened to explode and cause an environmental crisis. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) insisted on CNN that “gas prices have doubled” in part because the White House “has not issued drilling permits in the gulf.”

Because the Sunday shows are the Sunday shows, neither McConnell nor Kyl faced a single follow-up question on this — literally, not one — so their arguments were presented to viewers without challenge.

To put it mildly, that’s a shame, since the truth matters. Indeed, just Friday, President Obama explained:

“[T]he 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.”

None of this seems to matter, but what the president said happens to be true.