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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

President Obama says simply calling for more drilling is just a “bumper sticker,” not a real plan for bringing down rising gas prices. Obama says his administration’s “all-of-the-above strategy” is the “only real solution.”
(Feb. 23, 2012)

Obama: Opponents are ‘rooting for bad news’ on gas prices.

By  and , The Washington Post – Published February 23, 2012.

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In a Nod to Gas Prices, Obama Talks About Energy.

By The  New Tork Times online – Published February 23, 2012

MIAMI — President Obama, confronted by the political perils of surging gas prices in an election year, on Thursday defended his efforts to wean the United States off imported oil, even as he conceded there was little he could do in the short run to ease the pain at the pump.

Speaking to students at the University of Miami, in a swing state where gas averages $3.69 a gallon, Mr. Obama said: “Just like last year, gas prices are climbing across the country; this time, it’s happening even earlier. And when gas prices go up, it hurts everybody.”

The president offered what he called an “all-of-the-above” response, based on more domestic oil production, development of alternative energy sources and stricter fuel-efficiency standards.

Drawing a sharp contrast with Republicans and anticipating potential attacks on the campaign trail, Mr. Obama ridiculed his opponents for recycling a “three-point plan for $2 gas.”

“Step one is to drill, and step two is to drill, and then step three is to keep drilling,” he said.

This was the president’s first major effort to tackle an issue that has surfaced in the last few weeks as oil prices have been driven up by tensions in the Middle East, where Iran has threatened to retaliate against the West because of sanctions over its nuclear program.

Mr. Obama seemed keenly aware of the risk posed by oil prices. A previous cycle of price increases played briefly to the benefit of Senator John McCain during the 2008 campaign, when his running mate, Sarah Palin, revved up crowds with the chant, “drill, baby, drill.”

The president said that the United States is producing more oil now than at any time during the last eight years, with a record number of rigs pumping. The White House, he said, was prepared to open new areas in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to exploration.

But Mr. Obama warned that no amount of domestic production could offset the broader forces driving up gas prices, chief among them Middle East instability and the ravenous energy appetite of China, which he said added 10 million cars in 2010.

“Anybody who tells you we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or just isn’t telling you the truth,” he said to whoops from the crowd of nearly 1,500.

Mr. Obama’s remarks, tinged with humor and sarcasm, were bluntly political, on a trip that included fund-raising events in Miami and Orlando. But his message was sober: neither he nor anyone else can do much about oil prices, which he said were likely to keep rising.

The White House contends that the public has grown accustomed to these periodic spikes and will credit him for speaking honestly about the underlying economic realities rather than offering “gimmicky” fixes — something he eschewed in 2008.

Still, with gasoline prices nationally about 12 percent higher than a year ago, Democratic political analysts believe Mr. Obama needs to get ahead of the issue quickly.

Newt Gingrich, for example promised this week to bring gas down to $2.50 a gallon.

“Four dollars per gallon has typically been the tipping point when people go from complacency to exasperation,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, who notes that people have begun mentioning gas prices with increasing urgency in his focus groups.

Gas prices did not figure prominently in the Republican debate on Wednesday in Arizona, where the candidates trained most of their fire on one another. But Republicans in Congress criticized Mr. Obama for not opening more federal land to exploration, and for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The president would like everyone to forget that gas prices have doubled over the past three years while he consistently blocked and slowed the production of American-made energy,” a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Brendan Buck, said in a statement: Even Mr. Obama, they noted, once referred to his “all-of-the-above” policy as a “hodgepodge.”

Among Mr. Obama’s proposals are opening 75 percent of the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas resources by 2017; fuel-economy and emissions standards for trucks, vans and buses; and an administration effort to prevent bottlenecks in the oil market.

Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “Any effective energy policy is almost inevitably going to be a hodgepodge.” He credited the president with stimulating production, though he said the rejection of Keystone sent a weak signal.

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s lobbying group, said Mr. Obama had restricted opportunities to produce more oil by shortening leases and slowing permit approvals.

The president fired back, repeating his demand that Congress end subsidies for the oil and gas industries.

“It’s outrageous,” he said. “Every politician who’s been fighting to keep these subsidies in place should explain to the American people why the oil industry needs more of their money.”

None of Mr. Obama’s proposals were new, and some were aspirational. He said gasoline and diesel produced from algae could replace up to 17 percent of imported oil. But experts say such fuel is a long way from being commercially viable on that scale.

Joking that he once bought a car for $500, Mr. Obama said that because of new fuel-economy standards, new cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade.

Mr. Obama struck his own inadvertent blow for fuel economy, by flying to Florida on a Boeing 757 rather than a 747. The bigger 747, which usually serves as Air Force One, was in the shop.

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — President Obama said Thursday that there are no “quick fixes” for rising gasoline prices that are threatening the economic recovery and providing fodder for attacks from his political rivals.

Gas prices have risen 29 cents per gallon since December, with regular-grade gas now averaging $3.64 a gallon in the Washington region at a time of year when consumers usually enjoy a respite from price hikes.

The high cost at the pump could turn into an election-year mess for the president, whose approval ratings have surged recently as the economy improved. Republicans, sensing an opportunity, have blamed Obama for not giving oil companies greater freedom to drill for new U.S. supplies that might ease prices.

The political dynamics are muddied by the Iran factor. In their debate Wednesday, the leading GOP presidential candidates vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Yet the rise in oil prices recently has been augmented by the tightening of U.S. and European sanctions on Iran and its oil exports.

Some Democrats are also urging Obama, who has pressured other nations to curtail purchases of Iranian oil, to protect consumers by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as he did during the Libyan conflict last summer. Most presidents are reluctant to tap the reserve without a dire emergency, and many experts believed the release last year had a fleeting impact on gas prices.

The recent climb in pump prices resembles the 2008 oil spike, when, as a presidential candidate, Obama used the increase to rally support for a renewable-energy agenda. Since then, oil prices have collapsed with the economy and then soared again with the recovery. U.S. oil and gas production has begun increasing substantially for the first time in more than two decades. But the United States still imports about half of its petroleum needs.

In an appearance Thursday at the University of Miami, where he toured an engineering program for energy efficiency, Obama told a crowd of hundreds of students that his GOP rivals who are pledging to slash prices are “rooting for bad news” to win political points.

“Since it’s an election year, they’re already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas. I’ll save you the suspense: Step one is drill, step two is drill, and step three is keep drilling,” Obama said. “Well, the American people aren’t stupid. You know that’s not a plan..?.?. It’s a strategy to get politicians through an election. You know there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can’t just drill our to lower prices.”

Obama argued that his “all of the above” energy policy — promoting increased domestic production, improved fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and greater investment in clean energy innovation — is the smartest way to insulate the United States from the vagaries of the global oil market.

“There is no silver bullet. There never has been,” Obama said. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to make phony election-year promises about lower gas prices.”

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On a personal note – back in the 1970s and 1980s, the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida, had two energy departments under engineering and policy studies faculties. Coincidentally, both programs were headed by Turkish-American Professors – Professor Nejat Veziroglu, a Mechanical Engineer, who headed the Clean Energy Research Institute, in Coral Gables,  and Professor Behram N. Kursunoglu, a physicist who once worked with J. Robert Oppenheimer and later headed the Center for Theoretical Studies at Coral Gables. Both of them – the one on technical issues, the other on policy issues, did studies in alternate energy and had National Science Foundation contracts to organize international topical conferences in Miami Beach and overseas. Professor Veziroglu was also President of the International Association for Hydrogen Energy.

For Veziroglu I used to organize yearly Biomass events in Miami Beach, and with both of them, Veziroglu and Kursunoglu, separately, I participated in delegations overseas.

We went to Beijing to talk about various alternatives – ranging from hydrogen, coal liquids and gases, and photovoltaics and biofuels. My part was in the biofuels. We had an audience in Beijing of perhaps 1,000 people – Professors and advanced  graduate students , we also went to Pakistan where Professor Veziroglu, under an NSF contract, helped establish a Solar Energy Institute modeled after the Boulder, Colorado, SERI. Later, first my associate, Professor George Samuels, and eventually myself, we  went myself to lecture in Lahore, Pakistan on the production of ethanol from Energy Cane. Pakistan published our studies.

Obviously, we were successful beyond expectation, with China,that implemented much of what we were talking about –  less so with Pakistan that moved on in the nuclear direction while we were trying to tell them that they can reduce the need for imported energy by other means.

Professor Veziroglu was made an Honorary Professor in Xian Jiaotong University of China (1981)

I mention all of this as I see the PRESS did not pick up the history of the place, that though without the original two heads of Institutes, we are sure is still active in working on alternatives to oil.
The policy need being even larger today.

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