Project 21 New Visions

Kevin Martin

Polls Show State of the Economy Has Dumped Energy Issues onto Obama's Lap


by Kevin Martin (bio)

 

Gasoline prices are on the rise — nearing $4 per gallon nationally. Deep public concern, undeniable according to recent polling, is forcing President Obama to pivot his attention back to the rising cost of energy during his presidency.

In a recent speech at Prince George's Community College in Maryland, Obama attempted to dismiss criticism that the policies his administration has enacted over the last three years regarding energy. The President sought to dismiss former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's claim that he could bring down the cost of gasoline to $2.50 per gallon. Even though the President publicly appears to embrace conservatives' "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, he still used the speech to compare his critics to the Flat Earth Society.

President Obama's deflections, and his insistence that there is no "silver bullet" for lowering gas prices, should be seen as an acknowledgment that his advisors are also looking at polls and know the overall health of the economy remains the number-one concern of the American people.

Recent polls show a majority of Americans now disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy and that nearly eight out of 10 Americans feel that the nation is on the wrong track under his leadership. A mid-March New York Times/CBS News poll found Obama's overall approval rating standing at 41 percent.

Americans are dealing with their cost of living going up over the last three years — the price of basic goods rose 27 percent — as their wages have stagnated. And energy costs play a major factor in the nation's economic malaise.

Thus far, Obama has downplayed calls for more drilling by saying that domestic energy production is up, but the Energy Information Administration reports that production has fallen off considerably during this administration. It is production on state and private land that fuels Obama's boast.

The Institute for Energy Research issued a report showing that drilling on public lands has fallen to a nine-year low. In 2003, 21.2 quadrillion BTUs of domestic energy were produced from fossil fuels found on public lands. In 2011, it had fallen to 18.6 quadrillion BTUs. According to the EIA, oil production on federal lands dropped 11 percent between 2010 and 2011 alone.

President Obama's energy pivot indicates that some congressional liberals are feeling the heat from voters. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), for instance, has stepped into the debate by publicly demanding that Saudi Arabia increase oil exports to drive down the market price for a barrel of oil.

The President enjoyed a short reprieve lately, as public attention strayed to social issues, such as a contraception mandate on religious institutions and the phony outrage surrounding the comments of Rush Limbaugh about liberal activist Sandra Fluke. But as gas prices near $4 per gallon, many Americans resumed worrying about how they will survive the summer as experts predict a gallon may soon cost a dollar more.

Liberals have questioned the accuracy of the President's dismal polling news and question the intelligence of those being polled. But Obama and his supporters cannot deny that executive action has not only affected the price of a gallon of gasoline but the cost of energy overall. Despite his administration's assessment that the nation is in recovery, most Americans are still worry about the overall health of the economy as unemployment remains high and basic goods remain costly.

President Obama found a friendly crowd at Prince George's Community College, which is in Maryland's largest minority-majority county and is home to a large number of federal employees. Outside the beltway, however, the message is all too clear: "It's still the economy, stupid!"

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Kevin L. Martin is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.


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