The Fact Checker: Energy

Mitch Daniels’s unfounded claim: President Obama wanted higher gas prices

Let’s give the president credit for one domestic policy that worked. He wanted higher gas prices, and he got them. He said it. Secretary Chu said $8, or about what they pay in Europe, would be great. Secretary Salazar said it could go to $10; he still wouldn’t be for allowing drilling in many of the places where we know there’s an awful lot of domestic production. And so they’ve gotten the doubling of gas prices and perhaps worse as a conscious policy of this administration. May be the one thing they set out to do and actually accomplished.” — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels during an interview on Fox News Sunday, Feb. 26

Republicans lately have ramped up their rhetoric on gasoline prices, focusing on an issue that resonates with struggling Americans despite slowly but steadily improving jobs numbers that have taken some steam out of their economic arguments. We showed in previous columns this week that the price increase is not as bad as some make it out to be, and that the unusually low cost of gasoline when President Obama took office — during a severe economic downturn — explains how they jumped at such a high rate.

Still, Republicans know that pain at the pump can affect the president’s reelection chances, and they’re fanning the flames of discontent.

We took a look at Obama’s energy policies and searched for proof that he or Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that cost hikes “would be great.” We also looked at Secretary Ken Salazar’s stance on drilling to find out whether the Interior Department director really said he wouldn’t budge on drilling in the face of $10-per-gallon gas.

The Facts

We can’t be sure why Daniels thinks the Obama administration had a “conscious policy” of driving up gasoline prices. His office did not respond to questions about the matter.

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Keystone pipeline jobs claims: a bipartisan fumble


“The Keystone energy project would create tens of thousands of American jobs.”

— House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Dec. 10, 2011

 “At a time when many are without work, it is time that we come together in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation which will create tens of thousands of new jobs.”

— Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Dec. 12, 2011

 “The privately financed Keystone XL pipeline project is projected to create tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in construction and manufacturing.”

— Mark H. Ayers, president of the building and construction trade department, AFL-CIO, Nov. 3, 2011

"My administration will stand behind the Keystone pipeline, creating more than 100,000 American jobs while reducing our dependence on overseas imports."

— Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (R), Nov. 1, 2011  

There is bipartisan consensus: The Keystone XL pipeline means jobs, jobs, jobs.

 The Obama administration last month announced that it was taking more time to consider how to balance environmental concerns and economic issues in deciding whether to approve the pipeline, which would carry heavy crude oil from Canada’s Alberta province to the Gulf Coast. (Skeptics would suggest the White House wanted to avoid angering two key allies during an election year.)

Ever since, advocates of the pipeline have pressed the case that thousands of shovel-ready jobs are being delayed by the administration’s inaction, with House Republicans including a shortened timeline for a permit in legislation extending the payroll tax cut.

 We’ve repeatedly warned that many “job creation” statistics are often guesstimates of estimates, and should be viewed skeptically. By some accounts, the number of jobs that would be created could be as many as 150,000. But the State Department in August put the number of construction jobs at just 5,000 to 6,000.

 What’s going on here?


The Facts

 TransCanada Corp., which is pushing to build the pipeline, claims that  Keystone XL “was poised to put 20,000 Americans to work to construct the pipeline.” The company also cites another figure — 118,000 spin-off jobs Keystone XL would create through increased business for local restaurants, hotels and suppliers — that comes from a study commissioned by the company. The study even suggested that under “normal” oil price assumptions, the number of permanent jobs would top 250,000.

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