Sen. Murkowski: Obama having an Al Gore moment on domestic oil drilling

President Obama deserves about as much credit for expanding U.S. oil production as Al Gore does for inventing the Internet, a GOP senator said Thursday. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) took aim at Obama for touting increased oil-and-gas production during his State of the Union address.

“It’s like Al Gore taking credit for inventing the Internet,” Murkowksi quipped to reporters in the Capitol.

She said the increases in domestic oil production are the result of technological advances, policies of previous administrations and drilling on state and private land.

“Timing is everything, and I think what you’re seeing is a combination of factors,” said Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “You’ve got technologies that have come online that have allowed for greater production. ... We’re also benefiting from policies that are put in place prior to this administration coming into office.”

Murkowski noted that it often takes many years from the time a project is approved to the time it begins producing oil.

“There’s an extraordinary lag that you see with energy production in general,” she said.

Republicans have been working for weeks to undermine White House efforts to take credit for expanded oil-and-gas production. Drilling was a major theme of the State of the Union and the president plans to continue stressing the issue going into the upcoming election.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Energy Department’s statistical arm, said last month that domestic oil production increased while Obama has been in office, going from 5.1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010.

The agency projected that those numbers will continue to increase to the highest levels since 1994. Citing offshore oil development in the Gulf of Mexico among other factors, EIA estimated that domestic oil production will increase to 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020. That figure will decrease after 2020, but won’t go below 6.1 million barrels per day through 2035, EIA said.

In addition, EIA forecasts decreased reliance on oil imports as a result of U.S. production growth, fuel mileage standards, the growth of biofuels and other factors.

That’s good news for the Obama administration, which has weathered aggressive attacks from Republicans and some oil-state Democrats over its drilling policies. Obama’s opponents argue that the administration has not done enough to open up offshore areas to drilling.

In his State of the Union address, Obama took credit for the increased oil production and vowed to do more.

“Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil-and-gas resources,” Obama said during his address last month, referencing the Interior Department’s draft 2012-2017 offshore leasing plan.