Turning a deaf ear to energy-cost concerns 

It’s not at all clear which Barack Obama was standing before the White House press corps Friday.

It certainly wasn’t the same president who stood before a meeting of Resources for the Future on Sept. 15, 2005, and declared: “But as we cut through all the talk and the politics in the energy debate, we can see what the debate is really about. We see the family that thinks twice about what they’ll spend at the grocery store this week, because they’ve been paying $40 to fill up the tank for the last month.

“We see the grandmother who isn’t sure how she’ll make her Social Security check cover January’s heating bill. The autoworker that isn’t sure what the future at Ford holds for him. And the mother who sees turmoil in the Middle East and worries that someday her son might have to fight to secure our oil supply. Ultimately, we see a nation that cannot control its future as long as it cannot control the source of energy that keeps it running.”

The Obama of 2005 worried about the devastating economic impact that high energy prices have on people from all walks of life. But the Obama of last Friday has seemed determined to make the price of gas go up as much as possible since his first day on the job in January 2009.

He dramatically slowed, then completely stopped, the federal government’s issuance of drilling permits on federal lands and in offshore waters. He slowed down the government auctions of leases for energy exploration on other federal lands. And since the Deepwater Horizon disaster last year, only two permits have been issued — both within the past month — to enable drilling to resume in the Gulf of Mexico, which supplies one-third of U.S. oil and natural-gas needs.

He has withdrawn previously-issued permits for drilling in Alaska and put millions of acres of federal land in the lower 48 states off-limits to future oil exploration.

His efforts have worked, too, as U.S. production has decreased dramatically. In 2007, the Energy Information Administration projected that 700 million barrels of oil would be produced offshore in 2010, but only 600 million actually were. And the same government agency predicted onshore production would be 133 million barrels last year, but it was only 114 million. And the EIA projects total U.S. oil production will go down 250,000 barrels per day next year.

These facts explain why gas prices are expected to reach $4 per gallon this summer. In fact, things have gotten so bad that even President Bill Clinton now agrees with President George W. Bush that under Obama there are “ridiculous delays in permitting when our economy doesn’t need it.”

When the two former chief executives, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, agree on something, the current president ought to listen up.

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