House GOP lawmakers cool on Obama 'Energy Trust' proposal

“It sounds like he’s going to take income from oil and gas production and use the income from that to destroy future production of oil and gas,” Lankford told The Hill after Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. “I can’t imagine we’re going to say, ‘Tell you what, let’s try to find the only sector of our economy that’s booming and growing and try to find some way to destroy it.’”

Doing what Obama suggested Tuesday would require an act of Congress, as the Treasury and states currently share royalties from fossil fuels developed on public onshore and offshore lands.

Republicans in the past have discussed creating such a trust. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, proposed a similar system in a comprehensive energy blueprint she released last week.

To be sure, the Capitol was teeming with lawmakers offering off-the-cuff reactions minutes after Obama’s speech.

But the initial response regarding the trust from some Republicans who are vocal on energy issues did not bode well for the fledgling endeavor.

A main point of contention for Republicans was that they say Obama has restricted drilling access on federal lands. They said that his plan would take a slice out of a pie that should be larger.

The White House contends domestic oil-and-gas production has risen under Obama’s watch.

GOP lawmakers, though, have criticized Obama for keeping some offshore and onshore areas off limits to energy production. They note the bulk of the increase in energy output has come from private and state lands.

“I think the Energy Security Trust isn’t going to have much money in it if the president continues to block development of energy on federal lands,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill. “If you’re a red tape salesman in this country, you’re doing very well.”

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) told The Hill that opening federal lands would drive enough private economic activity to supply the natural gas vehicle investments Obama seeks.

“Why do we need that? If he provides certainty in the natural gas markets on regulation and fracking, then there’s billions of dollars sitting on the sidelines that will get in. We don’t need to use public dollars to make it work,” said Terry, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), a deeply conservative Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Obama’s energy proposals were “very disturbing.”

“I don’t believe that investing more dollars in failed energy programs like Solyndra and alternative energy programs like that is going to get our economy going, and it’s certainly not going to make us more energy independent,” Johnson said, referring to the now-bankrupt solar firm that got a federal stimulus loan guarantee.