Obama Negotiates with Himself on Oil. Again. May 16, 2011Posted by Jamie Friedland in Media, Offshore Drilling, Politics.
Tags: Big Oil, Gas Prices, GOP, Obama, Offshore Drilling, Oil, OPEC, Politics
President Obama’s position on oil has been one of the most disappointing and incoherent facets of his administration to date. On Saturday, this trend continued as the President announced a series of shifts to increase domestic oil production.
Pundits say he had to respond to high gas prices (which presidents do not control). This maneuver is political capitulation in the face of a mismanaged narrative in the public discourse. For years, this “debate” about gas prices has been dominated by flat out lies and misinformation in one of the more disgraceful displays of unaccountability in contemporary American politics.
I have attempted to clear the air (pun intended) on this topic a number of times. For a fuller explanation, please see this previous post.
Here’s the short version: conservatives claim that high gasoline prices are caused by liberal overregulation stifling domestic oil production. That just isn’t the slightest bit true. Oil is a global commodity, so its price is determined on the global market. We, the United States, represent 25% of world oil demand and about 3% of world supply. The point here is that we simply don’t have enough oil to affect global supply and thus prices. And the kicker is that even if we could, OPEC is a cartel; they could/would effortlessly decrease their production to offset any impact we could have.
Here’s another inconvenient truth: domestic oil production is already up 11% under Obama and was down 15% under Bush. That reality doesn’t match this GOP argument. Increased domestic drilling cannot lower gas prices. Period. Don’t take my word for it, read for yourself – even the mainstream media have finally caught on recently.
So back to Obama. After failing to enact a single piece of oil-spill legislation, the President was finally starting to sound like a progressive on energy again. In an earlier address he even pointed out the supply/demand reality I described above, although he inexplicably refused to take it to its logical conclusion that drilling cannot be a solution. To now increase drilling as a response to gas prices validates the baldly fabricated GOP narrative. Much like the current deficit focus, we’re conceding not only the point but adopting their frame as well. No good can come of that. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Recall that last year, right before the Congressional energy debate, the administration unveiled a plan to dramatically increase offshore drilling. For which it asked nothing in return. Rational negotiators might reward unilateral compromise. A GOP party that miraculously resurrected itself by vociferously opposing any- and everything Obama does would of course do no such thing. So we gave away a bargaining chip for free [that most progressives would have rather kept] and no energy bill was passed. Also, this episode occurred just one month before the BP oil spill, which prevented the administration from using that catastrophe as a catalyst for needed change.
In both cases, the only rationale I can see is political maneuvering. We know the Obama campaign prizes the supposedly undecided independents and what moderate Republicans still exist “in the middle.” They think that carving out GOP territory for Obama will undercut Republican attacks. But even if they pick up some independents, if they sell out progressives to do it that is not a net gain. Additionally, the GOP won’t care that oil production is up – more than they want these policy objectives, they want to keep their base angry. Have Obama’s oil moves blunted their attacks on this president as anti-oil or trickled into the Fox Newsiverse? No.
Obama’s tactics seem to operate from a flawed premise on bipartisanship about which I have previously written, and I am concerned about this plan.
Drill, baby, drill is political welfare for Big Oil, plain and simple. It does not help America, it helps oil executives. If we’re going to cave on offshore drilling, leverage it for a coherent energy policy. If we’re going to increase domestic oil production, call it the compromise that it is and justify it as job creation (with a side of pollution and risk); don’t validate their lies. I can stomach a certain amount of political compromise, but I can’t start defending the Fox News reality as truth.