News Column

Johnson Defends Obama on Energy

March 8, 2012

Denise Ross

Two oil tankers

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., agrees with vocal Republicans that gas prices are too high, but he disagrees that President Obama's policies are to blame.

Johnson joined in a partisan battle over the nation's energy policies a day after President Obama addressed the issue in his first press conference of the year.

Saying he wanted to "set the record straight" Wednesday, Johnson said domestic oil production is at its highest level since 2003 even while oil companies "sit on 55 million acres of federal leases."

"Since the president took office, oil and natural gas production have increased every year and imports of foreign oil have decreased," Johnson told reporters. "We're drilling on more land today than at any other point in our nation's history. Over the past three years, the number of oil rigs on the ground has quadrupled."

Johnson noted that earlier this year, the Obama administration announced it would lease an additional 38 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil drilling and exploration.

"The price increases are not a matter of domestic production. Instead, we are seeing global market forces like strong oil demand in developing countries like China and India combined with political instability in places like Iran," Johnson said. "This is a complex problem we cannot just drill our way out of."

Johnson accused Republicans and others of spreading "misinformation" and "distorting the truth" on the issue.

When asked if he was referring to remarks made by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to reporters last week or to Republican presidential candidates, Johnson said he was talking about the presidential candidates. He said he had not read or heard Thune's recent statements.

Thune has said the Obama administration has systematically worked to prevent domestic oil drilling.

"They have literally gone out of their way to block development of American energy resources," Thune said last week.

Johnson also repeated his earlier criticism of taxpayer subsidies to oil companies.

"These oil companies are wildly profitable, but they continue to receive billions of dollars of tax subsidies," Johnson said.

Johnson said he supports an "all of the above" approach to energy, saying that as oil and gas are developed, so too should renewable, domestic energy sources "like ethanol" be developed as a way to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Source: (c) 2012 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.)

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