OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Obama enters gas-price fray

“The Obama administration has consistently blocked American energy production that would lower costs and create new jobs,” Boehner said, announcing that House Republicans will focus heavily on the matter in the coming weeks and months.

“Americans looking at the price of gas at the pump these days are justifiably upset. What they may not realize is that some in the Administration are actively working to prevent us from increasing our own oil production here at home,” McConnell said in lengthy remarks on the Senate floor.

The GOP's goals range from faster permitting of deepwater Gulf of Mexico projects to advancing drilling in Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska, where Shell Oil has been seeking for years a green light to look for oil. Republicans also say the Obama administration is impeding onshore drilling in western states.

The GOP attacks are accelerating — Republican lawmakers are all over the cable channels echoing similar sentiments of late — at a time when turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has pushed oil prices to their highest levels in over two years.

Watch for more in Friday's print edition of The Hill and online later Thursday night.


NEWS BITES:

Oil industry to criticize administration over oil data


The American Petroleum Institute, the country’s most powerful oil-and-gas trade group, will criticize the Obama administration Friday over what API calls overly optimistic White House claims about U.S. oil production.

The administration has touted recent federal data that show domestic oil production increased in 2010. That presents an overly rosy picture, API Upstream Director Erik Milito told E2.

“When you’re talking about production as your measure, you’re actually being misleading because you’re talking about decisions that were made years ago,” Milito said. Milito will brief reporters on the issue Friday, highlighting other federal data that show domestic oil production is expected to go down in 2011 and 2012.

“We’re trying to set the record straight,” Milito said. “We’re going to try to paint the picture as to all the decisions onshore and all the decisions offshore.”

E2 reported on the disagreement over the data in more detail here

Dems slam Barton for defending oil tax breaks

Democrats are slamming Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the so-called chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for saying he supports tax breaks for the oil industry.

“No one should be surprised that Representative Joe Barton is the first to defend taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil companies despite record profits and record gas prices but everyone should be appalled that the House Republican caucus followed his lead,” Jesse Ferguson, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement Thursday.

Democrats offered a floor motion earlier this month to send a House government-spending bill back to the House Appropriations Committee with instructions to eliminate oil-industry tax breaks, but Republicans rejected the proposal.

In a recent interview with ABC News, Barton said: "Over time if you put so many disincentives against any U.S. manufacturing or production company, or oil-and-gas exploration company, they'll go out of business."

Democrats, including Obama, have called for repealing the tax breaks, arguing such an effort will help lower the deficit. But Republicans have objected to the proposal, arguing that a repeal could harm the economy.

Klobuchar, Johnson introduce energy bill

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced energy legislation Thursday that would require 25 percent of the country’s energy come to from renewable energy sources by 2025. The bill would also provide incentives for biofuels, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

It drew quick praise from the ethanol industry Thursday. "With the price of oil skyrocketing to $100 a barrel, we need a national energy policy that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, creates jobs here in the United States, improves our environment and strengthens our national security,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said in a statement. “Legislation that promotes access to higher levels of ethanol will help our nation achieve these goals."

The lawmakers introduced similar legislation in the last Congress.

Citing study, Chamber calls for streamlined energy permitting


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Thursday that the American economy is missing out on 1.9 million jobs a year and $1.1 trillion in potential investments because of a slew of delayed energy projects.

The Chamber released a report focusing on a wide range of energy projects, including coal, renewable and nuclear plants, that have been delayed because of "not in My backyard" activism, a broken permitting process and a system that allows for limitless lawsuits by opponents,” the Chamber said Thursday.

The Chamber used the report to call for faster approvals of energy projects. “This study should serve as a wake-up call for legislative action to improve the permitting process,” said William Kovacs, a senior vice president at the Chamber.

Sanders to Obama: Push harder to repeal oil tax breaks

Democrats and the White House haven’t had much luck on Capitol Hill in their push to repeal billions of dollars in oil-and-gas industry tax breaks.

The Hill’s Bernie Becker reports that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who has floated plans to yank the subsidies — on Thursday called on President Obama to push harder.

He reports:

The Vermont independent, a self-described socialist, did acknowledge that Democrats and others that tilt to the left politically have historically not had much success ending subsidies for oil and gas.

But he also declared that he believes the American people would be more receptive to that and other progressive idea if President Obama gave them more high-profile support.

“I want to see the president involved the way he was when he ran for president, talking about justice in America,” said Sanders, noting he did not approve of the tax-cut deal the White House helped broker last year. “And if he’s involved, with all of his enormous capabilities, I think we can win over the American people.” 


ON TAP FRIDAY:

EPA, House GOP to resume battle

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will appear at a joint hearing of two House Energy and Commerce Committee panels to talk about the agency’s budget proposal.

Her appearance, the latest in a series on Capitol Hill, comes a day after one of the panels — the Energy and Power subcommittee — approved legislation that would block EPA greenhouse gas rules. Republicans are also taking aim at several other EPA policies.

Forum to explore rare-earth elements

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will host a senior Energy Department official and other experts at a briefing titled “Securing America’s Supply of Critical Materials and Rare Earth Elements: Implications for Renewable Energy.”

China dominates global production and exports of rare earth elements, which are vital to the manufacture of clean technologies including hybrid cars and wind turbines, prompting concern about U.S. vulnerabilities to supply disruptions and access limits.

“This briefing will address the current supply of critical materials, including the newest developments from China, and policy opportunities to strengthen American expertise in the occurrence, discovery, extraction, processing, and recycling of these commodities,” an advisory states.


AROUND THE WEB:


Sen. Paul on light bulbs and toilets

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slammed an Energy Department official Thursday for the department’s plans to make appliances more energy efficient.

Talking Points Memo has the money quotes:

" 'It's not that I'm against conservation — I'm all for energy conservation,’ Paul admitted. 'But I wish you would come here to extol me [sic], to cajole, to encourage, to try to convince me that it would be a good idea to conserve energy. But you come instead with fines, threats of jail. ... This is what your energy efficiency standards are.'

“Paul went on, 'I think there should be some self-examination from the administration on the idea that you favor a woman's right to an abortion, but you don't favor a woman or a man's right to choose what kind of light bulb, what kind of dishwasher, what kind of washing machine.' ”

Later, Paul lamented the poor quality of toilets: "We have to flush the toilet 10 times before it works," he said. "I've been waiting for 20 years to talk about how bad these toilets are and this was a good excuse today."


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…


Here’s a quick roundup of Thursday’s E2 stories:

— Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) floated a bill to repeal ethanol tax breaks
— A key subcommittee passed a bill to block EPA climate rules and the House GOP plan to bring the bill to the floor soon
— A government official said speculation could be driving up oil prices
— A new poll says the public is expecting sharply higher gas prices
— House Republicans released an energy plan to help lower gas prices
— House Democrats called for tapping the country’s oil reserves
— Democrats introduced a bill to prevent gas price 'gouging'
— EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson laid out five “fictions” about her agency’s agenda

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