Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is unloading on the Obama administration for once again trying to limit domestic energy production that could spark a much-needed economic recovery in America.
The latest episode in this debate centers around the 23.5 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The energy industry and political leaders in both parties worked to open as much of the reserve as possible to exploration, but the Department of the Interior agreed to allow exploration on just 11.5 million acres.
“Unfortunately, this is very much par for the course,” said Sen. Vitter, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who has been very critical of Obama’s reluctance to approve domestic energy production. “This fits into a much broader pattern, and that is to back off all of the enormous and exciting opportunities we have for domestic energy production.”
Vitter added that the administration is doing the same thing with respect to the Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS, as the Obama plan calls for half the production in the OCS as the previous five-year plan.
“We’re actually the single-most energy rich country in the world bar none,” he said. “The problem is we take well over 90 percent of those resources and put them off limits like we’re doing here.”
The senator says leaving 50 percent of the resources off limits is bad enough, but even the 11.5 million acres that have been green lighted may never be tapped because of endless litigation from environmental groups.
“This isn’t the end of the road,” Vitter said. “This isn’t as if we’re even beginning to produce energy on that portion of it tomorrow.”
Vitter said Obama is missing a golden opportunity on two critical fronts, and Mitt Romney is embracing energy as the key to the American economic comeback.
“We’re not just talking about energy and energy independence and Lord knows that’s important enough on its own,” he said. “But it’s jobs, it’s great jobs, great American jobs, high paying jobs and jobs which can’t be outsourced by definition. You can’t develop domestic U.S. energy from China or India.”
Vitter said a third benefit is reducing the national deficit, noting that federal revenue from the energy industry is the nation’s greatest source of income after federal income taxes.
The senator also updated his frustrating fight to expand energy exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico after the Obama administration drastically curtailed activity following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Vitter said the amount of work being done in the Gulf today is just a fraction of what had been happening before the explosion.
“Lots of big rigs have left,” he said. “And when one of these giant rigs moves to Africa or South America or the Middle East, it’s not coming back in three months.”