By Tom Kenworthy, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is only in his first term as a member of the U.S. House. But he’s already collected nearly a quarter of a million dollars in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. It’s by far the number one industry that supports his budding political career.
Little surprise then, that Gardner is a reliable Capitol Hill ally for big oil. Little surprise either, that in serving the oil and gas industry agenda, he gets his facts wrong, as the Denver Post recently reported.
This week, he stepped up to the petroleum plate again, saying he’s introducing legislation to link any sales of our emergency oil supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increases in oil and gas leases on federal lands. Sell five percent of the oil in the reserve, said Gardner, and the Obama administration must draw up a plan to increase the amount of federal lands that are leased by five percent. That five percent would mean leasing nearly another two million acres of public land on top of the 38 million acres already under lease.
Apparently with a straight face, Gardner characterized his bill as something other than a blatant give-away to Big Oil:
This bill is about achieving energy independence and keeping prices at the pump affordable
Give Gardner credit. He makes it hard to know where to start the rebutting and fact-checking.
One might begin with the fact that in a recent report on domestic onshore oil and gas production, the Interior Department found that nearly three-fifths of the federal onshore acreage leased to the oil and gas industry was sitting idle and undeveloped. Surely it then makes sense to give them more when they’ve got leases on nearly 22 million acres they have yet to drill.
Or, consider where the drill rigs already are: in the U.S. As recently reported by Michael Conathan, CAP’s Director of Ocean Policy, the number of rigs operating in the U.S. has quadrupled since President Obama took office, and we’ve got more oil rigs at work now than in the rest of the world combined.
All that drilling activity and increased U.S. production – now at an eight year high — hasn’t lowered gasoline prices here, and it won’t. As Conathan pointed out, gasoline supply is dependent on refining capacity more than oil supply, and oil is a global commodity.
Taking the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a hostage to Republican talking points has now infected both the House and Senate. Last month, several members of the Senate introduced legislation that would prevent President Obama from selling reserve oil unless his administration approves the Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring dirty tar sands crude from Canada to the U.S.