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Does White House deserve credit for increase in domestic oil production? Some analysts say no

 

The president and the White House haven't been shy about claiming credit for doing everything possible to keep gasoline prices low.

As White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week "Oil and gas production in the United States has risen every year since the president's been in office. Oil production is now higher than it's been in eight years."

Industry analysts say production is rising -- not because of President Obama, but in spite of him.

"Today on federal land, the area where the president has control, production in the Gulf of Mexico is down 30 percent. Lease sales in Rocky Mountains on federal lands are down 70 percent," Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute said. 

He says the president has put 85 percent of the outer continental shelf off limits and overall, is only making 3 percent of the areas under his control available for development.

Numbers from think tanks and the federal Energy Information Administration confirm those numbers.

Nevertheless, steadily rising gas prices are a political liability. That's why the president now takes credit for the results of policies he ran against in 2008. One ad lambasted McCain by tying him to the Bush energy policies, saying "McCain and Bush support a drilling plan that won't produce a drop of oil for seven years."

The president initially wanted to drive up oil prices to make renewable energy more attractive.

His cap and trade plan was too harsh even for Democratic allies and failed. Nevertheless, Obama still seems to deny that drilling would reduce prices.

"You know there are no quick fixes to this problem, and you know we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices," he said at a speech in Florida this week.

Exploration and development do take years. But analysts argue the administration can't now take credit for decisions about drilling made years ago by President Bush and his predecessors.

"That production is a direct result of leases issued before this administration and as result of development on private and state lands," Gerard said.

On private lands, oil production is booming. In North Dakota, the oil and gas are on private or state land and beyond the president's control.

The state has gone from producing a small amount of oil to some 450,000 barrels a day.

Unemployment is 3.3 percent, the lowest in the country. And the state has a budget surplus in the billions.

Gerard thinks North Dakota isn't the only place. He says if the President would unleash the energy industry, the US and Canada have so much oil and gas that, along with renewables, we could become energy independent.

"We could be energy self sufficient right here in North America in 12 years, but that takes political courage," he said. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and others are now talking about releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve.

Gerard says it at least shows the administration recognizes that supply affects prices. But he argues we have a bigger reserve right under our feet-- if we'd only develop it.

Jim Angle currently serves as chief national correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1996 as a senior White House correspondent.