Thursday, October 18, 2012

Debate 2 | Obama’s Oil & Gas Rhetoric


Forget Fact Checking: Where’s the Logic?

- By: Larry Walker, Jr. -

In a real town hall meeting, the person asking a question gets to follow up. What we saw Tuesday night wasn’t a town hall meeting at all. The readers appeared to be simply mouthing someone else’s prearranged questions. There wasn't any passion. But what if the public was allowed to retort? Following are my thoughts on the lecture Barack Obama provided in response to the second question, a rather simple one which he has yet to answer.

QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

OBAMA: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.

Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I've also said is we can't just produce traditional source of energy. We've also got to look to the future. That's why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you're going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That's why we doubled clean -- clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.

So by the middle of the next decade, or around the year 2025, if I’m in the new car buying market at the time, I’ll be able to go twice as far on a gallon of gas. But, since a gallon of gas today costs more than twice what it did four years ago, we’re already at net zero. Mr. President, I was talking about today, right now, not 13 years from now or sometime after I’m dead and gone. And what exactly do coal, wind and solar have to do with the price of gasoline? Retail gasoline prices are sitting at a national average of $3.77 a gallon, just $0.33 off the all time high of $4.10 set in July 2008 (see chart above).

And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We've got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas.

Oil imports may be at the lowest levels in 16 years, but the gasoline I need to fill up my tank only cost an average of $1.23 a gallon in 1996, which would be equivalent to around $1.81 today, yet I’m paying around $4.00. Is the reason gasoline cost so much today perhaps the result of fewer imports? And as far as natural gas goes, can I fill up my tank with that tomorrow morning?

And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we've also got to continue to figure out how we have efficiency energy, because ultimately that's how we're going to reduce demand and that's what's going to keep gas prices lower.

We can drill for oil in an environmentally sound way? What does that mean? And what do you mean by ultimately reducing demand? How far away is that, longer than four years? Although it’s true that less demand can result in lower prices, it only works if supply remains constant or increases. But if both supply and demand are cut at the same time, then consumers won’t realize any price change at all. And if demand declines too rapidly, then many suppliers may be forced out of business. And then what will we do?

[The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product.]

Now, Governor Romney will say he's got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies. So he's got the oil and gas part, but he doesn't have the clean energy part. And if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we're not going to control our own economic future. Because China, Germany, they're making these investments. And I'm not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States.

Mr. President, I don’t need you to tell me what Governor Romney’s plan is, he can do that himself. The question was: Do you agree with Secretary Chu that it’s not the job of the Energy Department to help lower gas prices? So it seems your answer is that I need to be thinking about 10 years from now, and forget about how I’m going to get to and from work today, tomorrow, next week, or even four years from now. I see. And you’re willing to cede the jobs of the present in hopes that jobs of the future will be based on your present day policies, which for all we know might be considered archaic a month from now.

That's going to help Jeremy get a job. It's also going to make sure that you're not paying as much for gas.

What’s going to help Jeremy get a job, a policy geared to kick in by the middle of the next decade? In the meantime I guess poor Jeremy will have to get by on two or three McJobs, and hope he makes enough to cover the cost of getting to and from work. So is that it? Are you finished?

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me just see if I can move you to the gist of this question, which is, are we looking at the new normal? I can tell you that tomorrow morning, a lot of people in Hempstead will wake up and fill up and they will find that the price of gas is over $4 a gallon. Is it within the purview of the government to bring those prices down, or are we looking at the new normal?

OBAMA: Candy, there's no doubt that world demand's gone up, but our production is going up, and we're using oil more efficiently. And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my -- the previous president was an oil man.

Wait, so world oil demand and our production are going up? But you just said that our ultimate goal is to reduce demand in order to keep gas prices lower. So if the supply and demand of oil is going up, and you’re drilling more than the last administration, then how is this achieving your goal? And actually very little of what you just said is true. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration production of finished motor gasoline is trending downward, not up (see chart above). Maybe this is why gasoline prices are hovering near historic highs? After all, we’re not talking about jet fuel and diesel, are we?

And natural gas isn't just appearing magically. We're encouraging it and working with the industry.

Can I fill up my car with natural gas tomorrow morning? Because if I could, that would truly be magical.

And when I hear Governor Romney say he's a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when -- Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, "This plant kills," and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you're a big champion of coal.

Maybe Romney’s a big champion of jobs, unlike you Mr. President. At least he's got a plan to create 12 million jobs in four years to eliminate the current jobs deficit. Where's yours?

So what I've tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we're producing more coal, we're producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.

Yeah, consistently wrong. The question wasn’t about coal, clean coal or natural gas, you we’re specifically asked to comment on the Energy Departments role in keeping gasoline prices affordable.

And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we're also starting to build cars that are more efficient.

So now you’re saying that oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. A minute ago you said 16 years. Let’s see, so that would be 1992, right? In 1992 the price of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $1.13 per gallon, which would be equivalent to $1.86 today. So if oil production is up, oil imports are down, and they’re building more efficient cars, then why am I still paying close to $4.00 a gallon at the pump?

And that's creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, 'cause that's the demand around the world, and it also means that it'll save money in your pocketbook.

So by producing more efficient cars, America will someday be able to export them to Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Greece, Spain and such, and this will create jobs and save money in my pocketbook. Well, that’s interesting, albeit illogical.

First of all, switching over from the production of less efficient to more efficient cars doesn’t add any net jobs, because as new jobs are created, old ones are destroyed. It’s at best a zero sum game, and perhaps even worse looking at the latest green energy failure. The electric-car battery producer, A123 Systems, Inc. filed for bankruptcy just hours ahead of your wishful thought. How many is that? Looks like around 16 so far, see Obama's List Of Failed Green Energy Jobs & Companies.

Secondly, as far as saving money in my pocketbook, what’s a pocketbook? It seems that you’re either talking about something way off in the distant future, or the archaic past, but the question pertains to right now, today, within my lifetime.

OBAMA: That's the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that's what we're going to do in the next four years.

No Mr. President, that’s not the strategy I need. What I need is for gasoline prices to drop by at least half of where they are today. So do you agree with Secretary Chu that it’s not the job of the Energy Department to help lower gasoline prices or not? Will gasoline prices be half what they are today if you get reelected, or twice as high? Oh never mind, I’m leaning heavily towards the other guy anyway. I can make sense out of Romney's policies, but as for yours, the record speaks for itself.

References:

Presidential Debate Full Transcript | ABC News

U.S. Energy Information Administration

A123 Bankruptcy Gives Romney New Example of Green-Energy ‘Loser’

Obama's List Of Failed Green Energy Jobs & Companies!!!

U.S. Jobs Deficit Improves by 1,000 in September

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