Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took to the White House briefing room Monday to defend President Obama’s energy plan after a new poll suggested high gas prices are eroding the president’s approval numbers.
Salazar insisted that Obama is reviewing short- and long-term actions to lower gas prices, while also noting that there are no quick fixes to the problem.
Monday’s briefing is a strong indication of the White House’s concern with high gas prices, which have emerged as a threat to the president’s reelection.
Republicans have sought to pin the blame for high prices at the pump, which AAA said reached an average of $3.80 a gallon nationally Monday, squarely on Obama’s shoulders.
Republicans argue that the president is not opening up enough public lands to new drilling, and they have blasted Obama for his January decision to reject a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday put more pressure on the White House to undercut the GOP criticism. Sixty-five percent of those polled said they disapprove of Obama’s performance on gas prices.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed the poll Monday.
“The fact of the matter is the president and the administration is not focused on polling data,” he said, adding that the president is focused on protecting consumers from high gas prices.
Energy analysts say there is little that policymakers can do to quickly lower gas prices in the short-term. Gas prices are tethered to oil prices, which are set on global markets based on a slew of complicated factors.
The White House launched a full-court press Monday to prevent gas prices from further harming the president.
Obama is slated to conduct several interviews Monday with local television anchors from Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Des Moines, Orlando, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh.
And the White House released a report Monday morning that highlights the administration’s “historic achievements” on energy during the last year.
Salazar, at Monday’s briefing, touted the administration’s efforts to expand domestic oil-and-gas drilling, noting that production is at its highest level in years.
He dismissed industry and GOP claims that the administration doesn’t deserve credit for the uptick in production. Republicans say the increase was the result of prior administrations’ policies and new production on state and private lands.
“Those attacks are simply wrong,” Salazar said. “The fact of the matter is that we are producing more on public lands, both oil and gas, both onshore and offshore, than any time in recent memory.
“For those who say that this president and this administration has turned back the clock on allowing our public lands to be used for production, they are wrong,” he added.
But Salazar said increased drilling is just one part of the administration’s “all-of-the-above” energy plan, which includes lowering reliance on foreign oil, making vehicles more efficient and investing in renewable energy.
“This president has really led a renewable energy revolution, which we are very proud of,” he said.
Data show that the United States is producing more oil than it has in years and oil imports are decreasing.
But, after years of gains under Obama, production on federal land dipped in 2011, according to Interior Department and Energy Information Administration data.
For example, production from federal leases in the Gulf was 1.15 million barrels per day in 2008, rising to 1.56 million in 2009 and about the same level in 2010, but declining to 1.32 million last year and a projected 1.23 million this year, according to EIA.
According to Interior, offshore production totaled roughly 523 million barrels in fiscal 2011, a drop from almost 603 million in fiscal 2010, which was the highest year since 2002.
When it comes to onshore federal lands, production in fiscal 2011 was roughly 98 million barrels, compared to 112 million the prior year, capping years of gains.