In what may be a preview of a political dogfight to come, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour pointed an accusatory finger at the White House's energy policies today -- putting his dissatisfaction on the record in statements issued both before and after President Obama's press conference.
"Now that Obama and Chu's policies are working--pushing gas prices near $4--he's running away from his promise to send prices skyrocketing," Barbour posted on his Twitter account this morning.
Although his stance is not new, the timing of Barbour's critique is in sync with a growing chorus of Republicans who are tying the president's energy strategy to prices at the pump. House Speaker John Boehner blasted the White House Thursday while announcing a GOP initiative focused on more domestic energy production.
"The Obama administration has consistently blocked American energy production that would lower costs and create jobs in our country," said Boehner. "They've canceled new leases for exploration, jeopardized our nuclear energy industry, and imposed a de facto moratorium on future drilling in our country. They've even pushed a cap-and-trade energy tax that the president himself admitted would cause the price of energy to skyrocket."
At the midday press briefing today, President Obama flatly rejected critics, noting that last year, domestic oil production reached its highest level since 2003, "Any notion that my administration has shut down oil production might make for a good political sound bite, but it doesn't match up with reality."
Afterwards, Barbour issued a scathing rebuttal in a statement emailed by the newly hired communications adviser for Haley's PAC Jim Dyke.
"President Obama called today for a comprehensive energy strategy for the country. This is something Americans wish he would have thought of two years ago," said Barbour, adding, "If past performance is any guide, expect to be disappointed."
"The President said, ‘We are encouraging offshore drilling and production.' Shutting down production in the Gulf is a strange way of encouraging offshore drilling and production," Barbour continued. "The President's energy policies drive up the cost of energy and reduce the amount of American energy available to our people and our economy. Now is the time to change the Administration's policies and increase supply in order to reduce prices and promote energy security."
Barbour launched a similar attack on President Obama's energy policies during his speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC earlier this month, but opened himself to critics who pointed to his close ties with big oil industries. In addition to receiving significant donations from oil companies for his gubernatorial campaigns, Barbour previously worked as a lobbyist, during which time his firm represented companies in the energy industry.
Today's written statements did not address those criticisms but did underscore the governor's position as a staunch opponent of the president's energy strategy.
When the deepwater drilling moratorium was issued last year, Governor Barbour joined Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Governor Bobby Jindal (R-La.), among other Gulf Coast leaders, who called for the President to lift the federal ban.
On Fox News Sunday in June, Governor Barbour warned that a moratorium would encourage oil rigs to leave the Gulf and "the loss of production that we're going to suffer will make us even more dependent on the Middle East, on Venezuela, on people that aren't our friends."
"In the last 50 years, the four states that allow offshore drilling on the gulf, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama - more than 30,000 wells have been drilled in the Gulf of Mexico," he said in defense of the industry's safety record. "This is the first time in that more than 30,000 we have ever had anything like this happen. About 30 percent of America's production of oil and gas coming out of the Gulf of Mexico. If you shut this down, don't kid yourself, you're not shutting it down for six months."