“We’ve been down this road before,” he said, acknowledging that several past presidents have made similar calls for greater energy independence. But, he added, “we can’t rush to action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when prices are low again.”
He said that rising demand from developing countries such as China meant that future oil demand would rise faster than supplies. And he warned that even though current gasoline costs were pinching household budgets, “when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices.”
Most facets of his plan are familiar, and none of them provides fast relief. “There are no quick fixes,” Obama said.
The president proposed wider use of natural gas, including incentives to use it to fuel fleets of vehicles such as city buses. He backed greater production of biofuels and vowed to establish at least four commercial scale refineries producing cellulosic ethanol or advanced biofuels within the next two years. He also pledged to establish higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks, just as he did for passenger vehicles early in his administration.
Obama also urged oil companies to make greater use of federal leases onshore and offshore to prop up domestic oil output. A White House briefing paper said the Interior Department might shorten lease terms or use a sliding royalty rate scale to encourage speedier exploitation by companies.
Complaints about delays
The oil industry and GOP lawmakers have vociferously complained about delays in the approval of offshore drilling permits in recent months. But an irked administration, which had pledged tougher scrutiny of drilling applications after last year’s oil spill
in the Gulf of Mexico, fired back Tuesday with an Interior report that revived earlier claims that oil firms weren’t exploiting leases they already have.
“We just spent all that time, energy and money trying to clean up a big mess,” Obama said. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have amnesia. . . . I think it’s important that we prevent something like that from happening again.”
Obama said that Interior has issued drilling permits for 39 shallow water and 7 deepwater wells since his moratorium ended. Later Wednesday, Shell Oil said it had received a permit to drill a development well in its Cardamom field in the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama has made energy a policy centerpiece. In early 2009, he reached a deal with carmakers, unions and regulators to boost automotive fuel efficiency, a measure with far-reaching effects on U.S. oil consumption, 70 percent of which goes to transportation. The 2009 economic stimulus package set aside $70 billion in grants and loan guarantees to promote energy efficiency, advanced batteries for cars and renewable energy. But Obama poured a lot of effort into winning passage of a cap-and-trade climate bill, which failed.