Slick Spot?

“The American people aren’t stupid.” That’s what President Barack Obama told a group of University of Miami students in a recent speech on energy policy, chiding Republicans who say that the answer to high gas prices is to increase domestic drilling for oil.

Most states were flirting with $4-a-gallon gas at press time, and there is no doubt that many Americans are looking to fault someone. As the furor continues to grow heading into the presidential election, the candidate who successfully passes the blame may be the one who gets the keys to the White House. The president has made it clear that his campaign strategy is to shed light on the GOP’s attempts to blame him for soaring petroleum prices. “Some politicians see this as a political opportunity …” Obama said in the same speech. “Only in politics do people root for bad news, [and] do they greet bad news so enthusiastically.”  

The GOP has called for more oil to be drilled in this country. But the president has countered, calling that line of thought “a bumper sticker.  It’s not a strategy to solve our energy challenge. That’s a strategy to get politicians through an election.” Energy analysts have said that the cause of rising gas is much more complicated than simply drilling for more oil. Everything from an improving economy to turmoil in the Middle East affects prices.

The White House plans to methodically lay out its energy policy in the months ahead. The crux of it is the notion that, if the United States is going to avoid being at the mercy of world events, the country has to have a sustained, “all-of-the-above strategy” that develops every available source of American energy.  “Yes, oil and gas, but also wind and solar and nuclear and biofuels, and more,” Obama said.

According to the White House, the United States is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years, with more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined. And over the last three years, the White House has opened millions of acres for oil and gas exploration, including signing an agreement with Mexico that will make more than 1.5 million acres in the Gulf available for exploration and production. The GOP, however, says that’s because of better drilling technology, not White House policies.

Obama is also more vocal about calling for an end to the annual $4 billion subsidies given to oil companies.

From now until Election Day, the president will be quick to point out that there is no silver bullet to bring down rising gas prices. “When politicians pretend that there is, then we put off making the tough choices to develop new energy sources and become more energy efficient,” he says. “We’ve got to stop doing that.  We don’t have the luxury of pretending.  We’ve got to look at the facts, look at the science [and] figure out what we need to do.”

Read more in the May 2012 issue of EBONY Magazine.