By Ben Geman - 04/23/12 02:45 PM EDT
Mitt Romney on Monday accused President Obama of imposing an “onslaught” of regulations and restrictions on domestic energy production.
“Holding off on drilling in the Gulf, holding off on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, holding off on drilling in Alaska, trying to impose the federal government into ‘fracking’ regulations with regards to natural gas,” Romney said at a western Pennsylvania campaign stop.
“Then, of course, all the regulations related to coal, making it harder to mine it, making it harder to use it. These things have made the cost of energy go up,” he added.
Romney was speaking at a research facility owned by coal and natural-gas giant Consol Energy, a company that has donated to the Super-PAC supporting the former Massachusetts governor's campaign.
The presumptive GOP White House nominee and congressional Republicans have made energy a pillar of their election-season attacks on Obama amid the recent increases in gasoline prices.
The White House and President Obama’s reelection campaign have aggressively defended his energy record in recent weeks and months, a sign of the political sensitivity of the matter.
The campaign, shortly before Romney’s speech Monday, circulated a memo to reporters alleging Romney was offering “distortions” about Obama’s record.
“President Obama has aggressively pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy. As domestic oil production has reached an eight-year high and our dependence on foreign oil has fallen to a 16-year low, the president has also made historic investments in renewable energy, reduction of energy waste, the R&D of clean coal technology and expanded safe natural-gas extraction,” the campaign said.
The campaign also touted policies such as auto mileage standards that over time will save money for drivers of more efficient vehicles.
Obama’s campaign also knocked Romney for “embracing tax breaks for the big oil and gas companies and supporting eliminating protections against Wall Street speculators manipulating oil prices.”
U.S. oil and natural-gas production has risen under Obama, but combined oil production from federal lands and waters dipped in fiscal 2011 as offshore output was affected by limits imposed after the BP oil spill.
The Interior Department’s offshore leasing plans call for continued expansion in the western and central Gulf of Mexico and, in several years, offering more areas for exploration and production in Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska.
But White House critics want more aggressive development and oppose policies including regulations governing the onshore oil and natural-gas development method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
White House critics have also hammered Obama for failing to permit construction — at least thus far — of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, and taken aim at various EPA rules to curb emissions from power plants, calling them burdensome.
Gasoline prices have soared in recent months but crept down slightly over the last couple of weeks and currently average about $3.86 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA. The all-time high of $4.11 was reached in the summer of 2008.
Federal data show that average retail electricity costs have continued rising under Obama and former President George W. Bush. The annual rates of increase were generally higher under the prior administration, according to Energy Information Administration data found here and here.
U.S. natural gas prices are at their lowest levels in a decade amid a production boom, enabled by fracking, in gas from shale formations underlying Pennsylvania, Texas and a number of other states.
Romney on Monday took aim at Obama’s oft-cited backing for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
“I couldn’t figure that out, given his policies. And then it struck me. He is for all the sources of energy that come from above the ground. Wind and solar. He just doesn’t like the things that come from below the ground,” Romney said.
“The course that I will put us on is to take advantage of what comes from above the ground as well as what comes from below the ground so that America can finally become energy-secure and independent of the oil cartel,” he said.
This post was updated at 12:49 p.m.