Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

Romney said private business, not the Obama administration, was responsible for the increasing oil production in North Dakota and other parts of the country.

“As a matter of fact, he is responsible for it not being as much of an increase as it could have been,” Romney said at a rally Thursday morning with supporters here. “So far from taking credit, he should be hanging his head and taking a little bit of the blame for what’s going on today.” 

Romney lashed out at the Obama administration for trying to regulate the practice of fracking, a technique in which fluids are used to push oil and gas out from the ground. The former Massachusetts governor also rapped Obama for stopping the development of the Keystone oil pipeline, which would have brought oil into the United States from Canada. Romney called it a “no-brainer decision.” 

“When someone says we want to bring in a pipeline that’s going to create tens of thousands of jobs to bring oil in from Canada, how in the world could you say no?” Romney said. “This is a president who does not understand energy. He is the problem; he is not the solution. It’s time to get him out of the White House.” 

Romney said he would loosen regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal departments that he believes stunt the domestic development of oil, gas, coal and other natural resources. He said if elected, he would open up more federal lands for oil drilling, including the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, and offshore drilling. 

North Dakota, which holds caucuses on Super Tuesday next week, has an unemployment rate of about 3.3 percent, the lowest in the nation. Buoyed by an oil boom, the state had an estimated $1 billion budget surplus last year. 

So while it is politically difficult for Romney or any other Republican to attack Obama over jobs here, federal regulation of the energy sector is a far more ripe target for candidates.  

Romney plans to carry his energy-focused message to an afternoon rally in Idaho Falls, Idaho. His focus on energy comes on the same day that Obama plans to tout his record on energy issues during a visit to New Hampshire.