Two Colorado congressmen whose districts include all or parts of the state’s extensively drilled and mined Western Slope had very different reactions to today’s speech on energy policy by President Barack Obama.
Obama, speaking at Georgetown University on the heels of a report he requested from the U.S. Department of Interior detailing unused oil and gas leases, took a shot at the 2008 “drill, baby, drill” Republican campaign rhetoric and chided today’s GOP for trying to blame rising gas prices on his administration.
The report released Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, found that more than half of all onshore oil and gas leases on federal lands are not being used by the companies that purchased the leases, including only 32 percent of the leased federal lands in Colorado.
“When it comes to drilling onshore, my administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill,” Obama said, according to a transcript. “So any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve ‘shut down’ oil production might make for a useful political sound bite — but it doesn’t track with reality.”
Republican freshman Scott Tipton, who represents the 3rd Congressional District and serves on the House Natural Resources Committee, issued this statement:
“President Obama announced today that he’s on board with a goal Republicans have been pushing for a long time — to decrease our reliance on foreign oil,” Tipton said. “That’s good news, but the devil is in the details.
“If the President is serious about his new commitment to American energy independence, he needs to work with Congress to open up American energy development with a yes-to-all approach that will stabilize our energy supply, increase revenue, and create jobs.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, whose 2nd Congressional District stretches from Boulder deep into the Western Slope in Eagle County, had this to say:
“The president today confronted the ridiculous assertion that his administration’s lands policies have led to high gas prices at the pump. The ‘drill baby drill’ mentality persists, but we simply can’t drill our way to lower gas prices or long term energy independence, because when it comes to drilling we’re already wide open for business. Complex issues like international energy markets need detail oriented solutions, not just catch-phrases like ‘drill baby drill.’
“The facts are straightforward: the Obama administration has granted ample access to oil and gas development in the U.S., approving a higher percentage of permits in 2010 than during all but one year of the Bush administration. Recent years have seen record amounts of production, yet we still see high prices. Even with this access, leased acres sit untouched by companies — roughly 57 percent of onshore acres sit idle — and yet the industry wants more. At the end of the day, America consumes much more oil than we can ever hope to produce. American families need real solutions, rather than being tricked into giving up more public lands and more community safeguards that don’t affect the price at the pump.
“High gas prices are a demand-driven problem, rooted in speculation and international markets. Continuing to fight for increased efficiency standards, transportation alternatives, ending wasteful oil and gas subsidies, smart growth and renewable fuels is the only way we will end our addiction to foreign oil for good.”