Obama’s speech on energy

Posted on March 19, 2011


If we look back in time, we find that all the presidents in the United States since Nixon’s time will sooner or later make a statement which indicates that the U.S. must become less dependent on imports of energy and especially oil. On March 11 it was time for Obama to make his statement on future energy supply at a press conference in the White House. I will come back with comments, but in this post you can read what Obama said:

Let me say a few words about something that’s obviously been on the minds of many Americans here at home, and that’s the price of gasoline.

In an economy that relies on oil, gas prices affect everybody -– from farmers and truck drivers to restaurant owners and workers as well as consumers. Businesses see rising prices affect their bottom line. Families feel the pinch every time they fill up the tank. For Americans already facing a tough time, it’s an added burden.

Of course, rising prices are not a new phenomenon. Three years ago, before the recession hit, a combination of factors, including rising demand from emerging economies like China, drove gas prices to more than $4 a gallon. The worldwide recession and the decrease in demand pushed prices back down. But over the past year, as the economy has picked up steam and global demand for oil has increased, prices have increased again. Turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East has added uncertainty to the mix and lost production in Libya has tightened supply.

Now, here’s the good news. The global community can manage supply disruptions like this. Other oil-producing nations have committed to filling any gaps –- and we will continue to coordinate closely with our international partners to keep all options on the table when it comes to any supply disruptions.

Here at home, everybody should know that should the situation demand it, we are prepared to tap the significant stockpile of oil that we have in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We’re also using the resources at our disposal at the federal level to monitor any possible manipulation in the oil markets. And I’m asking the Attorney General and relevant state — relevant agencies to work with state attorneys general to monitor for price gouging to make sure that nobody is taking advantage of working families at the pump.

In addition, America is better prepared for supply disruptions than we used to be. Today, we use 7 percent less oil than we did in 2005, even as our economy has grown since then, partly because our economy as a whole is more efficient. We’re adapting. We’re producing more oil and we’re importing less. Our automakers, for example, are manufacturing more fuel-efficient cars -– some that now get more than 50 miles to the gallon –- and our consumers are driving more of these cars.

In December, Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a payroll tax cut that is already helping to grow our economy and create jobs. In the wake of rising gas prices, it should also help act as a cushion for working families. This doesn’t lessen our commitment to do everything that we can to get gas prices down, but that tax cut will total about $1,000 for the average working family this year, or an extra $80 or so showing up in your paycheck each month. And that tax relief package is a key reason that even with these higher prices, economists and investors like Warren Buffett believe we should still expect solid growth and strong private sector job creation this year.

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. I don’t think anybody has forgotten that we’re only a few months removed from the worst oil spill in our history. So what we’ve done is to put in place common-sense standards like proving that companies can actually contain an underwater spill. And oil companies are stepping up — we’ve approved more than 35 new offshore drilling permits that meet these new safety and environmental standards.

There is more we can do, however. For example, right now, the industry holds leases on tens of millions of acres –- both offshore and on land –- where they aren’t producing a thing. So I’ve directed the Interior Department to determine just how many of these leases are going undeveloped and report back to me within two weeks so that we can encourage companies to develop the leases they hold and produce American energy. People deserve to know that the energy they depend on is being developed in a timely manner.

We’re also taking steps that will enable us to gather data on potential gas and oil resources off the mid- and south Atlantic, and we’re working with the industry to explore new frontiers of production, safety measures, and containment technology. We’re looking at potential new development in Alaska, both onshore and offshore. And when it comes to imported oil, we’re strengthening our key energy relationships with other producer nations, something that I will discuss with President Rousseff when I visit Brazil next week.

All these actions can increase domestic oil production in the short and medium term. But let’s be clear -– it is not a long-term solution. Even if we started drilling new wells tomorrow, that oil isn’t coming online overnight. And even if we tap every single reserve available to us, we can’t escape the fact that we only control 2 percent of the world’s oil, but we consume over a quarter of the world’s oil. T. Boone Pickens, who made his fortune in the oil business — and I don’t think anybody would consider him unfriendly to drilling — was right when he said that “this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”

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.

For example, last year we established a groundbreaking national fuel efficiency standard for cars and trucks. It’s going to save consumers money while conserving about 1.8 billion barrels of oil. And we’re working with automakers, autoworkers, and states to ensure that the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars and trucks of tomorrow continue to be built right here in the United States of America.

To satisfy our broader energy needs, we’re working to diversify our entire portfolio with historic investments in clean energy. Right now, all across America, our farmers are producing homegrown fuels, our scientists are looking for the next breakthroughs, and our workers are back in once shuttered factories, manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels and advanced batteries that will help our cars get hundreds of miles to the gallon. These are jobs that didn’t exist two years ago, and we want to create millions more of these jobs.

And in this year’s State of the Union address, I set a goal for America: By 2035, 80 percent of our electricity will come from a broad array of clean energy sources –- from renewables like wind and solar and homegrown biofuels, along with natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear power.

So these are just some of the steps that we’ve already taken to secure America’s energy future. And over the course of the weeks and months ahead, we will take more.

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. I think they’re tired of talk. We’ve got to work together -– Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between –- to finally secure America’s energy future. I don’t want to leave this for the next President, and none of us should want to leave it for our kids.

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