Republicans and the oil industry are working to translate President Obama’s weekend comments in support of Brazilian oil development into political ammunition in their battle against the White House’s U.S. drilling policies.
The American Petroleum Institute, the country’s most powerful oil and gas trade association, and Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said Monday that the administration should be doing more to develop U.S. oil-and-gas reserves.
Here’s Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who is among the lawmakers pushing for wider U.S. offshore drilling: “It’s ridiculous to ignore our own resources and continue going hat-in-hand to countries like Saudi Arabia and Brazil to beg them to produce more oil,” Vitter said in a statement. “We need to get serious about developing our resources here at home and working toward lower gas prices and long-term energy independence.”
But President Obama said Saturday during his visit to Brazil that an energy partnership with the nation will offer major benefits for the United States. Obama, in announcing a “Strategic Energy Dialogue” with Brazil, noted that the country has nearly twice the oil reserves as the United States and lauded its stability compared to some other oil-exporting countries.
“We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers,” Obama told a group of business leaders Saturday. “At a time when we’ve been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.”
Under the Strategic Energy Dialogue, the United States will work with Brazil “in the environmentally responsible and technologically advanced development” of Brazilian oil resources, according to a White House summary of the plan.
Administration officials also say they are working diligently to expand U.S. oil-and-gas development. The Interior Department has recently issued three deepwater drilling permits for the type of projects halted after last year’s Gulf oil spill. And the department on Monday approved an exploration plan that paves the way to expanded Gulf drilling.
Still, it’s not the first time Republicans have criticized the administration for its oil dealings with Brazil. Vitter and others railed against a 2009 proposed $2 billion commitment from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to the Brazilian oil company Petrobras to ensure the purchase of U.S. goods as the company explores for oil.
Many Republican claims about the Export-Import proposal have been shown to be overblown.
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