Obama and oil

This post began rolling around in my head last week when snarkmeister Shoebox from No Runny Eggs tweeted:

Yes, that was a wonderful summary of my thought as well. You see it was Mom’s birthday and we were headed for a drive to Savannah from Charleston, but I’d had word the week before that President Obama was going to Cushing, Oklahoma to tout an oil pipeline. Mom was just seeing it in her Facebook timeline that day when someone updated with “The President just flew over my house!” Obama had used Tinker Air Force base to get in and out of the state that day.

(Yes, my mother is on Facebook. And for the record she checked into every restaurant we ate at from her iPhone. Yeah. I’m me for a reason.)

So I started doing a little research. I remembered writing on oil pricing and in particular Obama’s plan for a windfall profits tax four years ago. And I was also remembering something my Oklahoma Grandmother always said: “I may not have voted for him but once he’s sworn in, he’s my President, too.”

It’s making for a difficult challenge, to put it all in one post. But I think that’s what Obama wants. In August 2008 I wrote about Obama’s energy policy:

I think you can expect more smokescreens in Obama’s future, though. Just like he fogged voters with this offshore drillling on-again-off-again news, there will be more in the future to blur voters minds on the energy issue. Plus, there’s the need to wade through the gimmicks – Obama’s windfall profits tax on those big, bad oil compaines, draining of the strategic oil reserves, and adding another rebate to voters to be used on energy and McCain’s gas tax holiday – to get to the core of the policies.

And that has certainly held true. We are nearly four years past that posting, and there’s still no clear energy plan although we were asked to believe otherwise recently by Democrat Kirsten Powers who says Obama’s policy will be successful in ten years. Then why didn’t he start four years ago? Four years ago Obama wanted Americans to put air in their tires (remember this?) and saddle oil companies with a windfall profits tax. He dropped the idea after he was elected, before he was even sworn into office.

Read that article on windfall profits. Obama was angry because prices had “soared” to an average of $3.58 a gallon. Today the same pricing source has the average at $3.90. (If you click that link after the day of this writing, remember it’s going to change.) The same source says the record average was $4.11 in July of 2008. We’re almost there. Yet Obama is rather quiet on the subject, isn’t he? Except to stand on a pipeline in Cushing, Oklahoma, the pipeline capitol of the states, and tout his approval of a line that doesn’t require his approval.

I laughed out loud at this quote from House Speaker John Boehner’s staffer Brendan Buck:

The approval needed for this leg of the project is so minor and routine that only a desperate administration would inject the president of the United States into the process. This is like the governor holding a press conference to renew my driver’s license…

And you see, Oklahomans know that. Absolutely. That pipeline and the oil that flows through it feeds a very big portion of the state’s families. (Here’s another article on how the approval is not necessary, calling Obama’s announcement a “con job.”) But this sentiment, like my Grandmother’s above, is also a part of Oklahoma:

“Anytime you have a sitting president coming to a small town like Cushing, it’s exciting,” Denney said. “There’s a whole lot of (people) that would sure like to see him. … There’s great anticipation.”

By the way, that article from the Tulsa World is primarily on how few people were allowed to attend the event.

Remember me “Singin’ the Red State Blues” in November 2008? This how Oklahoma voted county by county that year:

This is the Oklahoma where Obama went to tout his energy policy of allowing a pipeline he has no authority to deny with limited access to his announcement. So yes, President Obama, when it looks like you are about to be run out of town, it’s best to wave your arms to look like you are leading the parade.

All of those words and I didn’t touch Obama’s plan to tax oil companies again or the added gimmick to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. We’ll get there. 😉

In the meantime remember this remains the most clear explanation for President Obama’s ever-changing energy policies.


  1. Sorry to break it to you Cindy, but right now there are to primary drivers on oil prices, and neither of them have to do with pipelines or taxes.

    1. Refining capacity. We’ve been short of it for a long time, and approval on the building of new refineries is harder to do than spinning straw into gold apparently. This causes major problems because when a single refinery goes down for maintenance or other reasons, it causes supply shocks, which we feel.

    2. Threatening War with Iran. This one we can place squarely on the GOP Presidential Candidates (short of Ron Paul). Everyone knows that if war with Iran happens, there will be major disruptions for crude, which is causing major speculations on crude prices.

    If the GOP would stop being war mongers, who spend money we don’t have, trying to kill people we don’t know, for reasons we don’t understand… Gas would be cheaper.

  2. J. Strupp says:

    That’s something the Dems. need to convey this election year, Nick. But, unfortunately, that has nothing to do with Cindy’s point, which is Obama hasn’t executed a coherent, long term energy policy over the last 3 or so years.

    Come to think of it, which President HAS put forth a coherent, long term energy proposal? I can’t think of one.

  3. Randy in Richmond says:

    I didn’t know a presidential candidate had the power to affect worldwide decisions and policy. But the actual President of the US, who can and does affect worldwide happenings, did put out there the possibility of bombing Iran–I think his summation words were ” I don’t bluff “.
    And who is holding up the building of refineries and the like? –it ain’t the GOP.

    I would suggest that a recent President has a well defined energy policy. President Obama’s goal is to reduce and eliminate gasoline vehicles, coal, drilling for oil, and to not build any new nuclear power plants. That is his ongoing and well-defined policy per his actions, appointments, and pronouncements. I disagree with pretty much most of it but it is his policy. I agree it’s not coherent because just about everyone knows it isn’t working– and will not work.

  4. Refining capacity is an issue, but so is getting the tanks of stored crude to the refining facility. Both need to be managed to bring the price of gasoline down. Both are hostage to politics. I lived in an oil state long enough to know there really are never “primary” drivers to the pricing. Gasoline pricing looks more like a Rube Goldberg cartoon in reality.

    A war with Iran wouldn’t be a component if 1) we’d blown their stubborn backsides off the planet early and/or 2) focused on genuine energy independence in the U.S. instead of green energy malarkey.

  5. J. Strupp says:

    “But the actual President of the US, who can and does affect worldwide happenings, did put out there the possibility of bombing Iran–I think his summation words were ” I don’t bluff “.”

    That’s just saber rattling in a election year and pretty irrelavant to long term oil/gas prices. I don’t think anyone out there expects Obama to act on those words. If a Neocon hack like Santorum gets the nod, all bets are off.

    Iran’s newly acquired dominance in the Middle East (which was our consolation prize for listening to bankrupt neoconservative ideals) DOES drive oil prices when Iran cuts off oil supplies to Europe, thus, reducing aggregate global oil supply for the forseeable future. There IS a primary driver of oil/gasoline prices. Supply.

    And speaking of supply, I support increased domestic oil production and direct government subsidies for oil refinery construction (in the upper Midwest where refineries make sense) but I do so knowing full well that this will only benefit this country by improving trade imbalances (and our ongoing unemployment crisis). Increased domestic oil production does not and will not reduce oil/gas prices long term. Since oil is a global commodity with production dominated by a handful of nations, our increased oil production will be offset by those nations via reducing production on their end.

    We should start getting comfortable with the fact that we have no control over oil prices from the supply side. On that, President Obama and Democrats are correct.

  6. Randy in Richmond says:

    I certainly don’t expect Obama to act on his words and said so in a Post on this site:

    “Speak Softly and Carry No Stick”.

    My use of that statement here was simply to refute Nick’s comments.

    When I provided tapes of Democrats demagoguing the high gas prices and blaming President Bush you wrote,

    Isn’t this S.O.P.?… It’s also politics as usual.”

    Now you say the “Democrats are correct” and we have no control over the oil price from the supply side. In other words no matter which spin the Democrats use, in your eyes they are on the correct side of the issue. I would submit they had 2 years of total control of Congress and over 3 in the Presidency and what did they do? They don’t have a clue or perhaps they would have acted while in control.

  7. jimspice says:

    I’ve heard several sources refer to, and accurately so I believe, Obama’s energy strategy as “All of the Above” (here’s one). Not my ideal, but in these particular trying economic times, an across-the-board spur to investment may not be a bad idea. Don’t forget, the one TRUE driver of gas prices is demand, so high prices at the pump should be viewed as a promising sign of a global recovery. Grin and bear it.

  8. Randy in Richmond says:

    I’ve heard that too and pretty much agree with it as a statement. But my take is Obama really doesn’t mean it by his actions, with coal and oil, so much.

    But it is a really catchy phrase that works well on the campaign. When he applies it in his appointments and policies I will applaud.

  9. This time we grin and bear it. Four years ago it was a national outrage!

    And here it’s too early to drink to that.