Romney, Pawlenty hammer Obama on energy

“And that, of course, has led to a position where we're highly vulnerable to the imports that come into the country, highly vulnerable to the cartels. And when there are disruptions, as there are now in the Middle East, prices go through the roof,” Romney added.

His comments reflect wider GOP claims that the White House is placing too many limits on U.S. oil-and-gas drilling.

While Romney appeared to concede that little can be done about prices in the short term — he noted that “it would be nice if we could make magic happen” — he also argued that allowing wider U.S. development would send a signal to energy markets.

“You get the prices down by convincing people who are investing in gasoline futures, so to speak, the speculators – you let them understand that America is going to be producing enough energy for our needs. And that means we're going to start drilling for oil. We're going to use our natural-gas resources, which are now extraordinarily plentiful, given new technology,” he said, according to a transcript.

Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, also appeared on Fox News.

“It is tough to turn [prices] around quickly. One thing you can consider is a limited release from the reserve,” he said.

Democrats including Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) – a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee – have called for releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The White House hasn’t ruled out a release from the strategic stockpile, but hasn’t shown much appetite thus far for the idea either.

On drilling, Pawlenty hit similar notes to Romney.

“In the intermediate term we have to get serious about Americanizing our energy sources and developing it aggressively. This president and this administration has been sitting on their hands in that regard. We should be drilling in ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] and other places around the country. We should have an aggressive posture towards developing American sources. That would help,” Pawlenty said.

Obama administration officials say they support domestic drilling, but Republicans are pushing for a major expansion of leasing, especially offshore, while the administration is currently focusing on areas where development is already allowed.

Administration officials also, however, warn that drilling is not a tonic for addressing U.S. energy security problems or curbing oil prices (which are linked to gasoline prices).

“Even if we increase domestic oil production, that is not going to be the long-term solution to our energy challenge,” Obama said at a high-profile energy speech in March. He noted the U.S. has 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves but accounts for a fourth of world consumption.

“What that means is, is that even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess — offshore and onshore — it still wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term needs,” he said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a Senate panel in March that “what we do here in terms of production is not going to influence the price of oil.”