OTR Interviews

US drilling under President Obama: Fact vs. fiction

A closer look at President Obama's claim that America is producing more oil now than in the last eight years

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 15, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And President Obama playing a bit of defense today, the president taking aim at critics who blame him for soaring gas prices. The GOP presidential candidates argue the U.S. needs a big increase in domestic oil drilling to reduce gas prices. So what does the president -- what does President Obama say to that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That's a fact. That's a fact. We've quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. So do not tell me that we're not drilling. We're drilling all over this country.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I mean, I guess there are -- there are a few spots where we're not drilling. We're not drilling in the National Mall.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: We're not drilling at your house.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Does President Obama have his facts straight? Jonathan Strong from Roll Call joins us and is our fact checker tonight. So you heard the president speak. Does he have his facts right about the drilling and -- during his administration?

JONATHAN STRONG, ROLL CALL: The speech included a series of technically true but misleading statements. So the president is kind of correct in the sense that his policies aren't causing the current increase in gas prices because drilling takes a long time to come on line. It's a long-term process. And oil production is at the highest rate it has been at any time in the last eight years.

VAN SUSTEREN: So he's right about that, right?

STRONG: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so why is that misleading when he says that?

STRONG: Because when he says "under my administration," he's implying that it's because of policies that he's enacted as president. But actually, the policies that he's had a role in have decreased drilling on federal lands.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so -- and so the impact is that a net increase of oil production, but he's taking credit for basically something that was done that predated him.

STRONG: Well, and it's kind of like the drill -- the oil production has increased in spite of his policies, not because of them. And so he -- in the speech, he's also saying, you know, drilling is at its highest rate, but that is also not why gas prices have increased. He's trying to take credit for something that he says has nothing to do with the price of gas.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm always a bit curious why someone would do that. Because the last thing you want to do is get caught with your pants down. I mean, if you're going to go around and brag about something, you better make sure that, you know, people aren't going to be out there fact checking you.

STRONG: Well, this issue is one that -- it becomes very technical and complicated when you try to get down to the numbers. And so there's a lot of hot hair air on both side of the aisle.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so where's the hot air on the other side?

STRONG: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, where -- where are people misleading about President Obama, then?

STRONG: Like, the Keystone pipeline, OK? Whether you agree with that decision or not, it just happened. It's something that would come on line, you know, in months or years from now. The supply impact is not causing the current increase in gas prices. It would eventually impact the price of gas on the margin. More supply causes the price to come down.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, I have a little -- another gripe about Keystone that I can't understand why people aren't talking about. It's this, is that when the idea of Keystone was proposed, they had to do an environmental impact statement. So they went to Transcanada, the company that wanted to build the pipeline, and they said, You find someone to do an environmental impact statement so that we can make a decision based on that.

So Transcanada went out and found one of their buddies, someone they're doing business with, basically sent the fox out to guard the chicken coop. They had an environmental impact study done. The impact study came back saying that we should -- that we should do the pipeline.

They realized that, Oh, my God, we can't have -- we can't someone do the environmental impact statement who's in tight with the producer. So whoever made that original decision wasted a lot of time, a lot of money, and now we've got this huge -- this huge fight.

STRONG: Right. At the same time, you know, these environmental impact statements are very rigorous and thorough. And sometimes...

VAN SUSTEREN: But they should be done -- they should be done with a sense of confidence that it's not by a company that has an interesting in its outcome.

STRONG: You're saying there's an appearance of impropriety there.

VAN SUSTEREN: I am certainly saying there's -- there's appearance of impropriety, and anyone who had half a brain would have noticed that in the beginning.

STRONG: Right. No. I mean, I think that's a fair point.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so now -- the consequence we're now having to do another environmental impact statement. We're back to square one, and now we have an incredible political fight.

STRONG: Right. Well, another interesting thing from the speech today, though, is Obama spent some time mocking politicians who press conferences at gas stations during election season, promising that they'll cause gas prices to go down. But almost four years ago to the day, he did that exact thing. So I mean, I just think there was a lot of misleading statements in this speech today.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, the American people just sit by and hope that someday we don't get the misleading, we get the straight story. Anyway, that's our job. Jonathan, thank you.

STRONG: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama says they are drilling and drilling plenty, but Republican members of Congress insist it is not enough. They also accuse the president of playing politics with energy policy.

So what do they mean? Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam is the co-chair of the House energy action team. He joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. PETER ROSKAM, R-ILL.: Hey, Greta. Great to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Great to have you. So I take it you're not particularly thrilled with the -- with the President Obama in terms of how he lays out his energy policy and with the part about drilling and the production here domestically.

ROSKAM: Well, if you look at the non-partisan Energy Information Agency, they will tell you that the federal production -- in other words, the things that are under President Obama's direct control -- the production is down between 2010 and 2011 in natural gas 14 percent, and in oil 10 percent.

And so ultimately -- you know, to your previous guest, yes, there are policies that are in a place that are in the pipeline that have an impact. But the president has a huge problem on his hands, and it is this. There are few prices in American retail experiences that are more public and are more in your face than gas prices.

He has basically wedded himself over the past three years to a policy, and he has declared his stated policy is to spike energy prices. The secretary of energy earlier on has said that they want to get us to European-style prices.

And now, all of a sudden, they've reached that point. And here's where his problem is. There is a relationship between high energy prices, which he has advocated, and a weak economy. And so even on the pipeline question -- look, set aside the environmental question just for a second. Set aside even the pipeline -- the pipeline issue for a second.

And look at the job creation decision that he made. He made a decision to cater to a very narrow fringe base of his party of political allies, that is fringe environmentalists, at the expense of the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, a couple...

ROSKAM: And now in an election year, it's coming to fruition.

VAN SUSTEREN: A couple things. That statement about the secretary of energy and the European-style prices, that -- you know, he's dialed it back. And for whatever it's worth, that was done before he became secretary of energy. I don't know if that's of any great moment or not, but so that we get the facts out.

The whole thing about the Keystone project is that he -- President Obama faces a very ugly political situation. Does he keep the unions happy and create jobs or environmentalists happy and deny the project? That's the problem. And so he had to make that decision.

But underlying that was the absolute fundamental absurdity of having an environmental impact statement done by a company that had the appearance of impropriety, and everybody knew about it or should have known about it ahead of time. That should have been known about for a long time.

So as a consequence, the American people now suffer because now we don't have a good environmental impact study that we can have great confidence in, and we've got president torn between two decisions based on political decisions, the environmentalists or the union. And we've got a Congress that looped (ph) this into payroll tax, putting pressure on the president to decide it.

So it's, like, everybody's got a really dirty hand in this one. Am I wrong?

ROSKAM: Well, I don't think everybody's got a really dirty hand. I think what the American public says is this. They have an expectation that energy production is going to be abundant and it's going to be wise.

This administration, Greta, has slow walked these permits on federal lands. There's unbelievable opportunities in the mountain west that most experts say could create as much as 1.5 trillion barrels in oil shale production. So the abundance is clear, but the administration has been passive-aggressive.

And now all of a sudden, these policies are coming to fruition and they're looking at an election cycle. And there's one thing -- look, within a stone's throw of the studio on the way here, gas in Chicagoland is $4.46 a gallon.

And it is in everybody's face. It is inextricably linked to all aspects of the economy, whether it's groceries or driving down the road. It is a -- it is the -- it is the oil, no pun intended, upon which the commerce of the country moves.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, you've got to play into it that this -- his green energy policy with Solyndra and other was so -- is so vastly disappointing with all that's happened with the bankruptcy and everything, so that it was -- it was hoped that at least some of that renewable energy would relieve some of the other pressures so that the oil, for instance, would be available for other things.

So I mean, it's -- it's not just one simple thing, but this has been an unmitigated disaster and the American people are now paying for it!

ROSKAM: Well, they're paying for it. They're disgusted by it. And they're disappointed by it. When the president came in and gave his State of the Union message, he spoke to it briefly, but in a sense, he shrugged it off! And it was -- he was essentially saying, Well, a half a billion dollars, you have these kinds of losses. It's the cost of doing business.

And it's not a cost of doing business. It's squandering precious resources at a time when our country is borrowing 40 cents on the dollar.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I'm going to take the last word on it, but Solyndra wasn't just sort of a bad business decision, it was a profoundly stupid one with lots of red flags. It's not like, you know, things happen, and things do happen in business. Some companies don't survive. But this was something that -- and I sort of deviate, but this was something that there were a lot of red flags.

But I'm taking last word on that. Congressman, thank you, and I hope you come back.

ROSKAM: Thanks, Greta.