By Ben Geman and Amie Parnes - 03/22/12 01:04 AM EDT
“You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can and we will do it while protecting the health and safety of the American people,” Obama said, speaking with no jacket or tie. “That’s a commitment that I make.”
The White House has struggled in recent days to win the debate on gas prices, with Obama appearing at college campuses and manufacturing facilities to tout his energy strategy.
Wednesday’s appearance in New Mexico reflected a pivot of sorts as the White House looks to change the optics on the issue.
Obama delivered a 10-minute speech at the oil field after an hour-and-a-half flight from Nevada — where he was touting solar energy — and another 30-minute helicopter ride.
Overall U.S. oil production has been steadily increasing, reversing declines that began in the mid-1980s, and federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that it’s now at the highest level since 2003.
But federal data show that combined oil production from federal lands and waters — the areas regulated by Obama's Interior Department — dipped in fiscal 2011 after several years of gains.
Obama’s GOP critics have pounced on the recent drop, and more broadly say Obama should open far more areas to development than White House plans call for, alleging policies including the decision to keep the Atlantic and Pacific coasts off-limits are far too restrictive.
But Obama also said that expanded U.S. oil production alone can’t bring down rising gasoline prices, noting that that for decades there has been no connection between U.S. production levels and pump prices.
“Drilling can’t be the only part of our energy strategy,” Obama said “If we don’t develop new sources of energy along with oil-and-gas, and if we don’t develop technologies to use less energy for the same amount of output, we are always going to depend on other countries for our energy needs.”
we do nothing, every time there is instability in the Middle East, we
will feel it at the pump even if we are drilling non-stop here in New
Mexico and all across the country,” he said, noting U.S. oil resources
are not sufficient to drive prices down.
Obama touted efforts to develop biofuels, renewable electricity sources and his administration’s increased auto mileage standards.
It was Obama’s second stop on a two-day, four-state swing aimed at touting White House energy policy and countering GOP efforts to wound him politically over rising gasoline prices.
On Thursday Obama will be in Oklahoma to tout administration efforts to expedite a major oil pipeline, and later in the day discuss green energy investments in Ohio.
—This story was updated at 10:25 p.m.