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Published: Thursday, 3/22/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Obama's Ohio State visit to tout energy plan

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
President Barack Obama is to tour Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research. President Barack Obama is to tour Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research.
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With gasoline prices rising and some public disapproval of his rejection of the Keystone pipeline from Canada, President Obama is on a two-day energy tour to tout the boom in oil production that has occurred during a presidency that was supposed to begin a shift to alternative energies.

Mr. Obama will promote his "all of the above" energy policy Thursday at Ohio State University in Columbus.

He'll tour the university's Center for Automotive Research before giving a speech in the university's Recreation and Physical Activity Center.

"He's interested in Ohio State research. Maybe it's the breadth of the research that's going on here," said Caroline Whitacre, OSU vice president for research. She acknowledged that, "the location may have some political impact, yes."

One of the projects Mr. Obama will see is the Buckeye Bullet 2, which is the fastest electric car in the world.

Mr. Obama is fighting Republican criticism over rising oil prices and his rejection of a permit for the Keystone pipeline in January that Republicans said was needed to take advantage of energy resources on this continent, and create jobs.

According to the White House, the President's trip will highlight his policies to expand "responsible" oil and gas development, increase auto fuel economy, support renewable energy sources, and invest in infrastructure and research and development.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama visited the nation's largest photovoltaic plant in Boulder City, Nev.

The President was then to travel to oil and gas fields on federal lands outside of Maljamar, N.M., which is home to more than 70 drilling rigs.

Before coming to Ohio, Mr. Obama was to visit Cushing, Okla., where a new pipeline is being developed to transport oil to the Gulf of Mexico.

In Cushing, Mr. Obama is expected to announce an executive order to speed up permits and reviews on "vital infrastructure projects," including pipelines, and to expedite the Cushing Pipeline.

"The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries," the White House said.

Republicans said the President is taking credit for a pipeline that didn't need presidential approval.

"President Obama claiming credit for speeding up the Keystone pipeline is like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet," said Rep. John Sullivan (R., Okla.).

Mr. Obama said domestic oil and gas production has increased each year he has been in office, with domestic oil production at an eight-year high and domestic natural gas production at an all-time high.

According to the administration, there has been an average of 661.7 million barrels of oil produced in each of the first three years of his administration, compared with an average of 583.3 million barrels produced in the last three years under Republican President George W. Bush.

But while oil production has gone up, so have gasoline prices, over which the President says he has little control.

"Oil is bought and sold in a world market, and the biggest thing that's causing the price of oil to rise right now is instability in the Middle East," the White House said in a summary of the President's energy policy. Expected to add to pressure on gasoline prices is rising demand in China, India, and Brazil.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said, "he couldn't come to a better place than Ohio because we have all of the above -- oil, coal, natural gas, solar, an emerging biofuels industry, wind."

"He is very much a president who wants to develop new technology," she said, citing statistics that solar panels on public lands have multiplied since Mr. Obama took office, to now include solar fields at the 180th Air National Guard base in Lucas County, Camp Perry, and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge's visitors area.

U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House, said the phrase "all of the above" was coined by the Republicans in 2008 when they were still in the minority, but he said he doesn't believe the President is really a convert.

Mr. Latta cited statistics showing that the administration is taking longer to approve oil drilling leases, and noted that production of oil from public lands fell in 2011.

"We have to put more commodity on the market to drive down the price. If Keystone XL does not come across the United States, the Canadians say they will ship the oil to China," Mr. Latta said.

Whether or not the President is a born-again oil man, Gov. John Kasich took advantage of time with Mr. Obama last week, when he visited Dayton with British Prime Minister David Cameron, to lobby the President on shale natural gas development as a way to make the country energy independent without sacrificing the environment.

"We're not with him [Thursday], unfortunately, as we had other things we're doing. We were excited to be with him last week," said Mr. Kasich's press secretary, Rob Nichols.

The White House said Ohio State is "home to some of the country's most advanced energy-related research and development."

Among those is a $3.9 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to create a liquid transportation fuel that is 10 times more efficient than biofuels using "butanol."

The project aims to use bacteria and carbon dioxide to make a "bioconversion" to butanol. It's a long-term project, Ms. Whitacre said.

David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said he believes Ohio is the most important state for the presidential candidates to win over this year, and that explains the President's multiple visits to Ohio.

"It really represents the quintessential swing state. It's not an accident that he's coming to Ohio yet again. We're going to see him plenty more," Mr. Cohen said.

"Things have been going rather well for the President except for gas prices and Republicans have drilled him on gas prices as one area of major vulnerability," Mr. Cohen said. "He knows energy is one area he could be vulnerable in, especially if gas prices continue to rise.

"The green energy boom hasn't happened as fast as the administration would like. They've realized it's going to take longer for the United States to build up a green energy sector," Mr. Cohen said.

The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said President Obama is trying to "rewrite history on his own energy record."

"No amount of excuses and election-year promises can change the fact that this President is to blame for stifling oil production and driving up prices at the pump. Americans need a president who knows how to implement pro-growth energy policies, not someone who can only make excuses for their failed record," said Romney spokesman Andrea Saul.

She said the expanded oil production being highlighted by the President in New Mexico is the result of leases signed before he took office and that oil and natural gas production on federal lands declined from 2010 to 2011.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) issued a statement that "opportunities to expand domestic production have been met with more job-killing federal regulation or resistance from the Obama Administration. The President has rejected the Keystone Pipeline, which would be one of the largest private-sector infrastructure projects in the country and would boost Ohio's manufacturing sector. The President's EPA has saddled Ohioans with higher energy costs due to burdensome regulation, resulting in job and revenue loss for local communities."

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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