Rep. Chaffetz: Energy policy a winner for GOP in Western states

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is counterpunching for Republicans during the Democratic convention here, said the 2012 battle over energy policy will be a political win for Mitt Romney.

Some recent polls have shown President Obama well ahead of Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, when voters are asked whom they want in charge of energy policy.

But Chaffetz on Monday said energy is “absolutely” a plus for Romney, especially in Western states where the federal government is a major landowner and most directly regulates development.

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“For those states out West that have a lot of public lands, we have not been able to access those, and those are some of our best jobs,” Chaffetz said.

“The energy-producing states understand how devastating Barack Obama has been to energy production,” he said.

Chaffetz made the comments while exiting a joint press conference held with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. They spoke at the GOP’s “rapid response” center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.

Republicans are seeking to emphasize energy by noting the increase in gasoline prices during Obama’s tenure, even though policymakers have few tools to significantly sway pump prices.

“It hurts every single American, especially on a holiday like Labor Day,” Chaffetz said at the press conference.

Regular gasoline prices are averaging $3.83 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA, an increase of 23 cents in the last month. Hurricane Isaac, which disrupted Gulf Coast energy supplies in recent days, has contributed to the price increase.

Overall, American oil and natural-gas production has been rising for years.

But Mitt Romney and other Republicans say Obama has stifled development on federal lands by keeping too many areas off limits to drilling and taking too long to issue permits, noting the U.S. production increases have been driven by development on state and private lands.

Chaffetz said energy would be a “big issue” in Colorado, which is a swing state that Obama carried in 2008.

Romney has been hammering Obama on energy, but a recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed Obama with a 13-point edge on the topic.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in late August also showed Obama with an advantage.

The president sought to turn energy into a liability for Romney during a campaign stop in another battleground state — Ohio — on Monday.

“Now, Ohio, you can choose an energy plan like the other guy is offering that's written by and for the oil companies. Or you can choose an all-of-the-above strategy for American energy, which means we drill for more oil, we mine for more coal. But it also means that we're going after the new energy sources of the future,” he said in Toledo, according to a White House transcript.

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