President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off Monday for the final time in the last debate, which will be focused on foreign policy. In that spirit, I’d like to do a little energy fact checking of my own from this week’s town hall debate.
An audience member asked the age-old question about the government’s control over the price of gasoline. The answers from both candidates were anything but direct, but they did unleash an electrifying war of words, policy lines, and many energy issues. So let’s unpack a few of these topics.
For starters, we know that the policies of most presidential administrations have very little actual effect on the price of gasoline. The global energy market prices the very global commodity of oil. Even arguments that increased domestic production, which interestingly is at an all-time high, won’t affect the price. Adding more U.S. oil to this global marketplace will, as has been done in years past, be adjusted by offsets in production around the world, virtually nullifying any possible price effect. Our best hopes to really combat the price we pay are forced increased fuel economy in vehicles or using a different fuel source altogether, like compressed natural gas.
And what of this record domestic onshore production of oil and gas? This was a heated one, but the answer is a bit oily, pun intended. The president can’t really take much credit here. Continental Resources Chairman and CEO Harold Hamm and many of Oklahoma’s great energy producers are responsible for the recovery of massive resources from the Bakken in North Dakota and the Marcellus Shale in the East. This is truly mostly private production.
But, let’s not get too hasty. None of the president’s policies are choking domestic production. Also, the record is pretty clear that federal public lands have produced 241 million more barrels of oil in President Barack Obama’s first three years in office than the last three of the George W. Bush administration.
Also, what about coal? Data demonstrates that coal production and use as a fuel source by America’s major public utilities were on the decline because of the recession, with a recent slight increase. However, coal isn’t leaving energy portfolios of electric generators because of Environmental Protection Agency policies. Rather, it’s because the market has changed. There’s a new fuel source in town: natural gas. It is cheaper, cleaner, and there is lots of it!
By the way, climate change anyone?
Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.