In a policy speech today at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, President Obama outlined a broad energy agenda that, at its core, stressed the importance of reducing consumption of foreign oil -- certainly not a new theme among modern U.S. presidents. Broadly speaking, the administration's "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future" (pdf), focuses on developing more domestic energy; providing consumers with more choice to save money and energy, and; innovating to a clean energy future.
Full transcript of speech given at Georgetown University on March 30, 2011
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
We meet here at a tumultuous time for the world. In a matter of months, we’ve seen regimes toppled and democracy take root across North Africa and the Middle East. We’ve witnessed a terrible earthquake, catastrophic tsunami and nuclear emergency batter a strong ally and the world’s third largest economy. And we’ve led an international effort in Libya to prevent a massacre and maintain stability throughout the broader region.
As Americans, we are heartbroken by the lives that have been lost as a result of these events. We are moved by the thirst for freedom in many nations, as well as the strength and perseverance of the Japanese people. And of course, it’s natural to feel anxious about what all this means for us.
One area of particular concern has been the cost and security of our energy. In an economy that relies on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody – workers and farmers; truck drivers and restaurant owners. Businesses see it hurt their bottom line. Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank. For Americans already struggling to get by, it makes life that much harder.
But here’s the thing – we’ve been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon. Working folks haven’t forgotten that. It hit a lot of people pretty hard. But it was also the height of political season, so you had a lot of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians waving three-point-plans for two-dollar gas – when none of it would really do anything to solve the problem. Imagine that in Washington.
The truth is, of course, was that all these gimmicks didn’t make a bit of difference. When gas prices finally fell, it was mostly because the global recession led to less demand for oil. Now that the economy is recovering, demand is back up. Add the turmoil in the Middle East, and it’s not surprising oil prices are higher. And every time the price of a barrel of oil on the world market rises by $10, a gallon of gas goes up by about 25 cents.
The point is, the ups and downs in gas prices are usually temporary. When you look at the long-term trends, though, there will be more ups than downs. That’s because countries like India and China are growing at a rapid clip. And as two billion more people start consuming more goods, and driving more cars, and using more energy, it’s certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply.
So here’s the bottom line – there are no quick fixes. And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy.
We’ve known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades. Presidents and politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet. I’ve pledged to reduce America’s dependence on oil too, and I’m proud of the historic progress we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal. But we’ve also run into the same political gridlock and inertia that’s held us back for decades.
That has to change.
We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again. The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out. Not anymore. Not when the cost to our economy, our country, and our planet is so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right.
It is time to do what we can to secure our energy future.
So today, I’m setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.
I set this goal knowing that imported oil will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, we can partner with neighbors like Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, which recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and with whom we can share American technology and know-how.
But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard. And we boast one critical, renewable resource the rest of the world cannot match: American ingenuity.
To make ourselves more secure – to control our energy future – we will need to harness that ingenuity. It is a task that won’t be finished by the end of my presidency, or even the next. But if we continue the work that we have already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations; we will leave your generation and future generations a country that is safer, healthier, and more prosperous.
Today, my Administration is releasing a Blueprint for A Secure Energy Future that outlines the comprehensive national energy policy we’ve pursued since the day I took office. And here at Georgetown, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about how we will secure that future.
Meeting this new goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: finding and producing more oil at home, and reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.
This begins by continuing to increase America’s oil supply. Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half the liquid fuel we consumed.
To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my Administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production – as long as it’s safe and responsible. I don’t think anyone’s forgotten that we’re not even a year removed from the largest oil spill in our history. I know the people of the Gulf Coast haven’t. What we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility – for example, if you’re going to drill in deepwater, you’ve got to prove that you can actually contain an underwater spill. That’s just common sense.
Today, we’re working to expedite new drilling permits for companies that meet these standards. Since they were put in place, we’ve approved 39 new shallow water permits; and we’ve approved an additional 7 deepwater permits in recent weeks. When it comes to drilling onshore, my Administration approved more than two permits last year for every new well that the industry started to drill. So any claim that my Administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve “shut down” oil production might make for a useful political sound bite – but it doesn’t track with reality. (Continued...)