Thursday, March 15, 2012

Remarks of President Barack Obama on Energy and Gas Prices

Prince George’s County Community College

Largo, MD

March 15, 2012

The skills you learn here will be the surest path to success in this economy. Because if there’s one thing we’re thinking a lot about these days, it’s energy – how to use less and produce more right here in the United States of America. And with gas prices spiking all across the country, we’re getting another reminder of just how important that is right now.

If it feels like we’ve seen this movie before, that’s because we have. Gas prices went up around this time last year. They shot up in the spring and summer of 2008. This has been happening for years. And every time prices start to go up – especially in an election year – politicians dust off their three-point plans for $2 gasoline. They head down to the pump, make sure a few cameras are following them, and start acting like they can wave a magic wand and you’ll have cheap gas forever. Sound familiar?

Well here’s the thing: we know better. You know better. There’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to high gas prices. We know there’s no silver bullet. And anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t really looking for a solution – they’re probably just looking to ride the political wave of the moment.

Now, the most common thing we hear from these politicians is that if only we drilled for more oil here at home, gas prices would immediately come down and all our problems would go away.

Well, Maryland, there are two problems with that.

First, we are drilling. Under my Administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That is a fact. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. That is also a fact. We’ve approved dozens of new pipelines to move oil across the country, and just announced our support for a new one in Oklahoma that will help get more oil down to our refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Over the last three years, my administration has opened millions of acres of land in 23 different states for oil and gas exploration. Offshore, I’ve directed my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential resources. That includes an area in the Gulf of Mexico we opened up a few months ago that could produce more than 400 million barrels of oil.

So don’t tell me we’re not drilling. We’re drilling all over this country, and you have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can while protecting the health and safety of the American people.

But here’s the second problem with an energy strategy that only relies on drilling. In America, we use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil. But even if we drilled in every square inch of this country, we still only have 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. Use 20 percent; have 2 percent.

Now, you don’t need a math degree to realize we’ve got a numbers problem there. If we don’t develop other sources of energy – if we don’t develop the technology to use less energy – we will always be dependent on foreign countries for our energy needs. Every time there’s instability in the Middle East, we’ll feel it at the pump. As rapidly-growing nations like China or India keep adding more cars to the road, the price of gas will rise.

That’s not the future I want for the United States of America. We can’t allow ourselves to be held hostage to events on the other side of the world. That’s not who we are. In this country, we control our own destiny. We chart our own course. An energy strategy for the last century is one that traps us in the past. What we need now is an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy – not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power; biofuels and fuel-efficient cars and trucks that get more miles to the gallon. That’s the future. That’s where I want to take this country.

Thousands of Americans have jobs right now because we’ve doubled the use of clean energy in this country – and I want to keep making those investments. I don’t want to see wind turbines or solar panels or high-tech batteries made by other workers in other countries. I want them manufactured right here in the United States of America.

After three decades of inaction, we raised fuel economy standards so that by the middle of the next decade, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon – nearly double what they get today. That will save the average family more than $8,000 over the life of the car. That means you’ll be able to fill up every two weeks instead of every week. And those are exactly the kind of cars we need to keep building in America.

To fuel these cars and trucks, we’re investing in clean, advanced biofuels that can replace some of the oil we currently use. Already, we’re using these biofuels to power everything from city buses to UPS trucks to Navy ships. I want to see more of these fuels in American cars so that we buy less oil from foreign countries and create jobs here at home.

All of these steps have put us on a path to greater energy independence. Since I took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year. In 2010, our oil dependence was under 50% for the first time in thirteen years.

Now, we have to do better than that. And I know we can. But only if we tell the folks who are stuck in the past that our future depends on an all-of-the-above energy strategy. That’s our job.

Lately, we’ve heard a lot of professional politicians talking down these new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power and solar power. They make jokes about biofuels and electric cars. They were against raising fuel standards because apparently they like gas guzzling cars better. We’re trying to move towards the future, and they want to keep us stuck in the past.

Of course, we’ve heard this kind of thinking before. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably would have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. Maybe they would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who apparently said, “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” Or one of Henry Ford’s advisors who was quoted saying, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only…a fad.” I can’t prove this, but I do not think that man got the promotion he was looking for. They might have even sided with one of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, who reportedly said this about the telephone: “It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?” I hear that quote kept him off Mt. Rushmore.

The point is, there are always cynics and naysayers who want to do things the same way we’ve always done them. To double down on the same ideas that got us into this mess in the first place. But the only reason we’ve come this far as a nation is because we refuse to stand still. Because we put our faith in the future. Because we are inventors and builders and makers of things. We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That’s who we are. That’s who we need to be right now.

And if you want an example of exactly what I’m talking about, consider a very important issue before Congress right now . The question is whether or not we should keep giving $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the oil industry. They’ve been getting these subsidies for a hundred years. One hundred years. These are companies making more money right now than they’ve ever made before. And on top of the money they’re getting from you at the gas station, they want some of your tax dollars too.

That is outrageous. It’s inexcusable. And it’s time for this oil industry giveaway to end. So in the next few weeks, I expect Congress to vote on ending these subsidies. And when they do, we’re going to put every single Member of Congress on record: They can either stand up for oil companies, or they can stand up for the American people. They can either place their bets on a fossil fuel from the last century, or they can place their bets on America’s future –American workers, and American ingenuity, and the American-made energy we can produce right here in our own backyard. That’s the choice we face. That’s what’s at stake right now.

Maryland, we know what direction we have to go in. We can let these politicians take us back to an energy strategy for the last century, or we can invest in a serious, sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy that develops every resource available for the 21st century. That’s the choice we have – the past, or the future. And it’s a choice we have to make.

You know where I stand. And I think most of you agree. Ending these subsidies won’t bring down gas prices tomorrow. Nothing will. But if we’re tired of watching gas prices spike every year – if we want to bring them down for good – we need to look beyond the energy of the past and put ourselves on a path to a real, sustainable energy future.

That’s the future you deserve. So let’s make our voices heard. Get on the phone, write an email, send a letter, and let your Members of Congress know where you stand. Tell them to do the right thing. Tell them we’ve got the tools and the toughness to win this fight. And if we combine our creativity and our optimism – if we keep harnessing our brainpower and manpower and womanpower – then I promise you, we will come back stronger than before. We will create an economy that’s built to last. And we will make this century another American century.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

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