Erika Johnsen
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It's only March, but with Americans already feeling the many economically detrimental effects of rising gas prices -- on top of the still disappointingly high unemployment numbers and a persistently sluggish economy -- energy policy is already playing a central role in the 2012 campaign conversation. Team Obama is working to counter the GOP's many energy-related criticisms (which, I might add, are all very valid), deploying strategically misleading statistics in an attempt to solidify control over the national energy narrative. At the moment, they're touting two specific statistics that deliberately distort the truth:

1) Domestic oil production has been higher under President Obama's watch than it has in eight years.

I realize I posted on this a couple weeks ago, but, to reiterate: In his energy speech at the University of Miami in late February, the President oh-so-patiently explained that Republicans are silly for thinking that "drill, baby, drill" is anything but a bumper sticker because, even if he were to approve a bunch of leases right away and allow energy companies to get crackin', it can take up to five, even ten years for these projects to really get off the ground and actually increase the oil supply. But, in the exact same speech, he said that domestic oil production has reached new heights under his administration. ...Does he think he can have it both ways?

The increased domestic oil production we're currently enjoying is due to the initiative of private businesses and the policies of "the previous administration" -- seems like incread oil production is one of the few things Obama isn't willing to pin on the Bush administration, even if that's where the credit is actually due.

In fact, leasing on federal land has gone down under the Obama administration (but hey, at least the federal government is using public land [read: public assets] to develop solar energy, right? Right?).

2) And the companion ad: Under President Obama's "energy strategy," we're less dependent on foreign oil because we're importing the smallest amount in sixteen years.

And in a report from this morning:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama receives a report on Monday showing a one million barrel per day decline in U.S. oil imports in 2011, as the White House arms itself against election-year attacks on his energy policies, which Republicans blame for high gas prices. ...

"When President Obama took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By the end of last year, that number dropped to 8.4 million barrels per day," the White House said in an annual progress report on U.S. energy security. ...

Obama visited election battleground states North Carolina and Virginia last week to promote his message and will speak at the White House on Monday with local television stations serving key swing states, including Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

The Obama administration would have us believe the reasons we're importing less oil are because of both our increased domestic production and because of the success of his many taxpayer-backed green investments, but reality tells a different story. Increased domestic production is a factor in our decreased imports, but the root cause is the fact that our economy is still on the fritz. We're lately consuming less oil (ergo, importing less oil), because we're less productive and we're not making/spending as much money as we do in the good times. It's funny that Team Obama is touting this statistic as a positive, when really, it should be a pretty damning one.

What new and exciting statistics will they intentionally misrepresent next?

Addendum: In the WSJ this morning, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal published a piece slamming President Obama's politicized energy policy and misleading rhetoric, and outlining the steps we could take to increase our supplies and improve our economy right now. Solidarity, sir:

To pursue national and economic security, the president's first obligations on energy should be to increase the quantity of domestic energy sources and to decrease the cost of that energy to consumers. That starts with implementing a clear strategy of increasing energy production in all sectors—including the hydrocarbon sources abhorred by the left—and by providing the kind of long-term regulatory certainty that private capital demands before investment.

While the president is quick to tell anyone who will listen that domestic oil production is higher today than at any time since 2003, that's not the whole story. The truth is that today's production levels are not based on anything this president has done, but on the decisions made by private companies before he took office. And much of this production is taking place on private land.

Because energy prices are driven by a sense of future risk, the president should create a more predictable environment for exploration and production. In an election year, the federal government is now suddenly attempting to reach pre-moratorium—that is, pre-2010 BP oil spill—levels for approving deep-water drilling permits. That's not enough. The average number of deep-water drilling permits approved monthly by the administration is down by nearly 30% from the historical norm prior to the spill.

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Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for Townhall.com and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.