Obama burns jet fuel to downplay gasoline prices

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is about to launch a 5,000-mile, four-state, two-day trip on Air Force One to contain the political damage caused by high gas prices.

Obama is slated to fly out this Wednesday to camera-ready podiums in Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, from where he’ll tout his administration’s efforts to reduce the nation’s use of gasoline.

His 5,000-mile trip will consume roughly 25,000 gallons of jet fuel, according to Boeing.

That adds up to a fuel bill of $80,000, assuming the Air Force buys jet fuel at the cheapest cost, now estimated at $3.20 a gallon by the U.S. Energy Administration. The retail price for jet-fuel at local airports is just over $6 a gallon, including taxes.

Still, the cheapest jet-fuel costs about 43 cents less per gallon than the $3.63 cost of auto gasoline in Columbus, in swing-state Ohio, where the president will make his final speech on the trip.

The cost of gasoline is boosted by state taxes, which amount to roughly 40 cents per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks the cost of gasoline in each state. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Obama presidency)

The president’s support aircraft, including the C-17 cargo jets that carry his armored limousines and additional vehicles to cities before his arrival, will each burn a comparable amount of additional jet-fuel during the campaign swing.

GOP officials, unsurprisingly, are eager to associate Obama with high gasoline prices, which have more than doubled since his inauguration.

“We’re sitting on a wealth of energy to get us to a place where we don’t have $4 and $5 gas,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday.

“The Republicans have been in favor of the Keystone pipeline, 20,000 jobs, “ he said. “This president isn’t there.”

Obama will be in Boulder City, Nevada, on Wednesday to give a speech in front of a Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility, whose one million solar panels provide power to 17,000 of the nation’s roughly 115 million homes. That’s 1 house for every 6,764 nationwide.

For the next speech, Obama will fly to oil and gas production fields located on federal lands outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The backdrop there will be provided by some of the area’s seventy active drilling rigs, which will help the president suggest that he helped increase the nation’s oil production since his inauguration.

Thursday’s background will be Cushing, Oklahoma, which hosts a large percentage of the nation’s oil storage yards and oil pipelines.

Those pipelines don’t include the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, whose construction go-ahead was barred last fall by Obama’s State Department block its construction.

In March, Obama successfully lobbied Democratic Senators to vote down a GOP measure that would have approved the pipeline, prompting more criticism from GOP legislators.

However, Obama will likely showcase his administrations’ approval of a pipeline from the Gulf of Mexico to Cushing. Administration officials often cite that smaller pipeline when they’re questioned about Obama’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which is supported by voters and some unions representing construction workers.

The final stop on the trip will in Ohio, which is widely regarded as a must-win state in November.

While there, he’ll likely tout his spending on green-tech development in a speech at Ohio State University, which is “home to some of the country’s most advanced energy-related research and development,” according to a White House statement.

However, Obama has yet to persuade swing-voters that his policy of future green-tech savings is worth the pain of current gasoline costs. And some of the president’s critics argue that the price of gas is going up because of his opposition to the oil industry and oil drilling.

In Ohio, for example, each of the state’s residents travelled 9,586 miles on highways in 2009, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

That distance would require 320 gallons in a car or truck that achieved 30 miles to the gallon. The cost of that that distance has risen by roughly $550 since January 2009.

In a Mar.15 speech last week, Obama described gasoline as “the energy of the past.”

This four-state trip follows several earlier speeches on gas prices, including speeches in New Hampshire, Florida and one in Maryland last week, when Obama mistakenly claimed that President Rutherford B. Hayes disliked the telephone.

In that speech, Obama claimed that “America uses more than 20 percent of the world’s oil [and] if we drilled every square inch of this country — so we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere — we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”

However, oil-sector scientists estimate the nation has far larger supplies of oil that can be profitably drilled at current oil-prices — “technically recoverable oil” — and even more oil that could be pumped out if oil-prices go yet higher.

“U.S. proved reserves of oil total 19.1 billion barrels…. [but] technically recoverable oil in the United States is 145.5 billion barrels,” according to a Nov. 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service that relied on data from the U.S. Geological Survey. (Read more: Obama’s misleading energy speech)

The issue has also made its way into his stump speeches.

“I want an economy that’s supporting the scientists and researchers that will make sure we discover the next breakthrough in biotechnology, in clean energy,” he told a friendly audience Mar. 16 in Atlanta. “It is time to stop giving tax giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable and start investing in clean energy that can create jobs here in the United States in solar power and wind power, biofuels.”

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