In a pivot away from defending - and apologizing for - his healthcare website and its troubles, President Obama traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to tout economic growth and take credit for the resurgence of the American auto industry and the uptick in domestic oil production.
"We rolled up our sleeves. We made some tough choices. We rescued and retooled the American auto industry. It saved more than a million jobs. We bet on American ingenuity and American workers, and assembly lines started humming again, and automakers started to make cars again," Obama told several hundred factory workers and other guests gathered on the floor of a century-old mill surrounded by huge rolls of gleaming silver steel.
"We haven't just been recovering from a crisis. What we've been trying to do is rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity to protect ourselves from future crises," he said.
Before he spoke, Obama toured the factory, which sits on Ohio's Cuyahoga River and supplies high-strength steel for use in fuel-efficient cars. The mill owner, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, employs more than 1,800 people at the Cleveland plant and approximately 3,000 total in Ohio, according to corporate literature.
Obama said his administration's policies, including new fuel efficiency standards and investments in renewable energy, have led the nation to create more oil at home than it buys from other countries.
"For years folks had talked about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, but we didn't really do it, and we were just importing more and more oil, sending more and more money overseas, gas prices keep on going up and up and up. We finally decided we were going to do something about it," he said.
The Department of Energy revealed yesterday that last month domestic oil production exceeded oil imports for the first time since 1995.
"That's a big deal," the president said. "That's what America's done these past five years. And - and that is a huge competitive advantage for us."
But the American Petroleum Institute rushed to challenge Obama's claim of credit, arguing that "credit for the rise in American energy production goes to the men and women working every day to develop oil and natural gas here at home," API Vice President Kyle Isakower said in a statement. Moreover, Isakower added, domestic oil production actually decreased on land controlled by the federal government during Obama's first term.
Statistics provided by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service seem to bear out that assertion. A CRS report released earlier this year contends that "on federal lands, where the Obama administration controls development, oil fell 6 percent and natural gas production fell 21 percent over the 2009-through-2012 period. … On private and state lands, where development does not need permission from the federal government, oil production is up 31 percent and natural gas production is up 25 percent."
After Ohio, Obama headed to Philadelphia to help raise money for Senate Democrats.