Gas Prices and the Keystone Pipeline - Today's Qs for O's WH - 2/21/2012

TAPPER: I was wondering if you have any reaction - Republicans are - I know you haven't said that you'll be tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but you have said it's on the table. The president did it last summer. Republicans have legislation that would tie the president's hands - would make him have to OK the Keystone pipeline in order for him to be able to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And I'm wondering if you have a reaction to that.

CARNEY: Well, I'll make a couple of points on that. In terms of Keystone, as you all know, the history here is pretty clear. And the fact is, is that because Republicans decided to play politics with Keystone, their action essentially forced the administration to deny the permit process because they insisted on a timeframe within which it was impossible to appropriately approve the pipeline.

There wasn't even an alternate route proposed yet through Nebraska, an alternate that was deemed necessary based on the request of many in Nebraska, including the Republican governor. So the fact that the process, you know, had ended the way it did in terms of that permit request is wholly the responsibility of the Republicans who insisted on playing politics with the payroll tax cut extension back at the end of last year.

You know, on - going forward, let's just talk a little bit about oil prices. There are no magic solutions to rising oil prices and the - and the pain that Americans feel at the pump. This is a - there - the fact is, is that the president is very aware that - of the impact that the global price of oil has on families, and this is not something that this administration discovered or rediscovers every spring as some politicians do.

As you're aware, Jake, oil production in the United States has increased every year that this president has been in office, and right now -

TAPPER: That's not at all because of his actions, right? Isn't some of that because of previous administrations?

CARNEY: Well, it is - it is now a combination of both. And the fact is, is that American oil production is at its highest now than it has been in eight years. Moreover - and this goes to our actions - over the past three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration. As part of our focus on continuing to expand possible responsible domestic production, last month the president directed his administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas reserves - resources, including a 38-million-acre lease sale on the Gulf of Mexico scheduled for this summer, which could produce up to 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

And then, also - let's step back - when you look at this as a long-term issue and not magic solutions that politicians propose in the spring and forget about come the summer and fall, this president put into place historic fuel efficiency standards that will more than - nearly double the efficiency of the vehicles we drive over the next decade. And that alone will save American families $1.7 trillion at the pump and cut oil consumption by 12 million barrels.

The president is also committed to - I mean, he takes an all or - all-of-the-above approach.

We've approved new nuclear reactor development, first time, I believe, in 30 years, we are focused on increasing domestic oil and gas production, but we're also focused on developing alternative sources of fuel. Whether they're biofuels or wind and solar, alternative energy is another means by which we can reduce our reliance on foreign oil, reduce our vulnerability because of global oil - changes in the global price of oil. That's the kind of approach we have to take to ensure our economic future.

TAPPER: Do you have a reaction that Republicans are tying - trying to tie -

CARNEY: I don't have reaction to a specific proposed piece of legislation or even any legislation that's been submitted now. I would simply point you to the actions that this president is taking to increase domestic oil production, increase domestic gas production, reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy, and suggest to you that that's the right approach and that this record - the record the president has here is - - speaks for itself.

TAPPER: How can you say you have an all-of-the-above approach if the president turned down the Keystone pipeline? And you blame the Republicans for making a political -

CARNEY: But the president didn't turn down the Keystone pipeline. There was a process in place, with long precedent, run out of the State Department because of the issue of a pipeline crossing an international boundary, that required an amount of time for proper review after an alternate route was deemed necessary through Nebraska at the request of the Republican governor of Nebraska and other stakeholders in Nebraska and the region that needed to take it's - that needed to play out, to be done appropriately. You can't review and approve a pipeline the route for which doesn't even exist.

The Republicans were the ones, unfortunately, who decided - because they were looking for scalps, I guess, or looking for wins in a situation where somehow they found themselves on the wrong side of cutting taxes for 160 million Americans last December - they decided to play politics with this decision and attach it to the payroll tax cut extension.

That essentially - even though it had been made clear by the State Department that doing so would make it impossible for them to conduct the review responsibly, they did it anyway, knowing what the result would be.

TAPPER: I don't want to relitigate the whole thing, but Republicans say that the president was playing politics first by delaying a decision until after the election.

CARNEY: Well, I appreciate that, and we have been through this. But I would note that the delay was the result of a decision made to honor the concerns of those in Nebraska, including the Republican governor, who felt that the proposed pipeline associated with the permit request ran through a portion of Nebraska that would threaten the aquifer, threaten the water supply in Nebraska. The decision was then made to delay approval - delay the process to allow for examination of alternate routes. That's the process should work. It is unfortunate that the process was artificially halted because of the decision to play politics with the payroll tax cut extension.

-Jake Tapper

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