Presidential town hall debate excerpts – President Barack Obama on gas prices & domestic energy

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from the presidential town hall debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Oct. 16, 2012

Transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks on gas prices and domestic energy

Phillip Tricolla’s question: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

President Barack Obama: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.

Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional source of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we doubled clean — clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.

And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas.

And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we’ve also got to continue to figure out how we have efficiency energy, because ultimately that’s how we’re going to reduce demand and that’s what’s going to keep gas prices lower.

Now, Governor Romney will say he’s got an all-of-the-above plan, but basically his plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies. So he’s got the oil and gas part, but he doesn’t have the clean energy part. And if we are only thinking about tomorrow or the next day and not thinking about 10 years from now, we’re not going to control our own economic future. Because China, Germany, they’re making these investments. And I’m not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States.

That’s going to help Jeremy [sic] get a job. It’s also going to make sure that you’re not paying as much for gas.

Moderator Candy Crowley: Mr. President, let me just see if I can move you to the gist of this question, which is, are we looking at the new normal? I can tell you that tomorrow morning, a lot of people in Hempstead will wake up and fill up and they will find that the price of gas is over $4 a gallon. Is it within the purview of the government to bring those prices down, or are we looking at the new normal?

President Barack Obama: Candy, there’s no doubt that world demand’s gone up, but our production is going up, and we’re using oil more efficiently. And very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We’ve opened up public lands. We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my — the previous president was an oil man.

And natural gas isn’t just appearing magically. We’re encouraging it and working with the industry.

And when I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy, I mean, keep in mind, when — Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, “This plant kills,” and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.

So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.

And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient.

And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, ’cause that’s the demand around the world, and it also means that it’ll save money in your pocketbook.

That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.

Gov. Mitt Romney: But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.

President Barack Obama: Not true, Governor Romney.

Gov. Mitt Romney: So how much did you cut (inaudible)?

President Barack Obama: Not true.

Gov. Mitt Romney: How much did you cut them by, then?

President Barack Obama: Governor, we have actually produced more oil —

Gov. Mitt Romney: No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?

President Barack Obama: Governor Romney, here’s what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies.


Gov. Mitt Romney: No, no, I had a question and the question was how much did you cut them by?

President Barack Obama: You want me to answer a question —

Gov. Mitt Romney: How much did you cut them by?

President Barack Obama: I’m happy to answer the question.

Gov. Mitt Romney: All right. And it is —

President Barack Obama: Here’s what happened. You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it.

Gov. Mitt Romney: OK, (inaudible) —

President Barack Obama: And so what we did was take away those leases. And we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.

Gov. Mitt Romney: And production on private — on government land —

President Barack Obama: Production is up.

Gov. Mitt Romney: — is down.

President Barack Obama: No, it isn’t.

Gov. Mitt Romney: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.

President Barack Obama: Governor —

Gov. Mitt Romney: And production on gas —


President Barack Obama: It’s just not true.

Gov. Mitt Romney: It’s absolutely true. Look, there’s no question but the people recognize that we have not produced more (inaudible) on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up.

I was just at a coal facility, where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.

Candy Crowley: Mr. President, could you address, because we did finally get to gas prices here, could you address what the governor said, which is if your energy policy was working, the price of gasoline would not be $4 a gallon here. Is that true?

President Barack Obama: Well, think about what the governor — think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting.

So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.

What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong, and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve — we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.

So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says “these are imaginary jobs.” When you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that — in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it.

That’s not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it as President of the United States.



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