Obama attacked for favoring Middle Eastern oil

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

President Obama is being attacked by Republicans for promising to “ensure the free flow” of oil from the Middle East, while his administration is restricting oil and gas development at home.

“Hold on, more oil from the Middle East — did I hear that correctly?” asked Louisiana Republicam Sen. David Vitter, in response to the president’s U.N. address Tuesday. “There is an abundance of domestic and North American energy that is still off limits because of this Administration, and we need to ensure a free flow of that – not Middle Eastern oil.”

Obama expressed his concerns over disrupting oil shipments from the turbulent Middle East, saying that supply shocks could “destabilize the entire global economy.”

“We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world,” Obama told the United Nations. “Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.”

While Obama promises to stabilize world oil markets, his administration has presided over rapidly declining oil and gas production on federal lands. At the same time, oil and gas production on state and private lands is skyrocketing.

Federal lands produced 31 percent less oil in 2012 than they did in 2011, reports the Energy Information Administration, while oil production on state and private lands increased by 15 percent.

Natural natural gas production on federal lands has also fallen dramatically over the years — falling by 33 percent since 2007. Natural gas production on federal lands now only makes up 15.5 percent of total U.S. production — down from 24.9 percent in 2009.

During the 2012 campaign, Obama touted that his administration was presiding over record-level oil and gas production. However, all of that increased production was occurring on state and privately held lands, not on lands the administration manages.

“We need to prioritize domestic energy production, instead of the Administration’s expensive regulations and a mess of bureaucratic red tape that only slow down and obstruct the long-term success of American-grown energy businesses,” Vitter added.

The Obama administration is trying to repair its credibility in the Middle East and alleviate concerns with regards to Iran and Syria, which already have oil markets worried.

Signs that the Syrian conflict may be cooling have eased the upward pressure on oil prices, but markets will likely be watching for the UN’s response to the Syrian conflict.

“If the U.N. does not take on the challenge and put Syria to a vote, another line in the sand will be crossed and the United States’ hand will be forced to take action or risk losing whatever perceived power they might have left,” said David Greenberg, president of Greenberg Capital, told CNBC.

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