By Russell Berman - 02/28/12 04:28 PM EST
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blamed President Obama and “radical environmental groups” for high gas prices on Tuesday and said it was “about damn time” the United States had a national energy policy.
Boehner and House Republican leaders returned to Washington from a weeklong recess harping about rising prices at the pump, which the Speaker noted were higher than they have ever been this early in the year.
“The president says he’s for an all-of-the-above energy plan. Has anyone seen it? I’ve not seen it,” Boehner told reporters after a closed-door GOP conference meeting.
“We need to have the entire Keystone pipeline be approved by this White House,” he added. “The fact that they are trying to move forward on the section from Oklahoma to Texas is a positive first step.” He said, however, that the “major” supplies of oil were in North Dakota and Canada, where the pipeline has yet to be approved.
On Monday, the administration backed TransCanada Corp.’s bid to build a major portion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Texas. The pipeline can’t be extended to carry oil sands crude from Canada until the State Department approves a cross-border permit.
Other GOP leaders joined Boehner in criticizing Obama for an inconsistent position on Keystone.
“It is this kind of leadership, or lack thereof, that frustrates the American people,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said.
Republicans complained they had passed energy bills aimed at increasing domestic production that were sitting idle in the Senate.
Federal policymakers, though, have very few options to lower gas prices in the short term, according to experts. Gas prices are largely tethered to oil prices, which are set on global markets. Even a dramatic expansion of domestic oil-and-gas leasing would have little short-term effect on gas prices, they say.
During a private meeting earlier this month, Boehner urged GOP lawmakers to make rising gas prices a big issue against Democrats and the White House. On Tuesday, the Speaker’s message turned to anger at what he said was a lack of a national strategy to increase the oil and energy supply in the United States.
“Americans understand that we can produce more of our own energy. They don’t understand why 35 years since the oil embargo of 1974 that we’ve never had a national energy policy,” Boehner said. “We’ve got a handful of environmental groups — radical environmental groups who have stood in the way of having a national energy policy all of these years.
“It’s just about damn time that we actually have a national energy policy and do something the American people want us to do,” the Speaker added. “Enough of this! Get out of here,” he told chuckling reporters before walking off in a huff.
—Andrew Restuccia contributed.