ShorterTony Farto: It’s Clear! No, It’s Not Clear! Wait, Mommie!!!!!
Q On the President’s offshore oil statement today, it didn’t seem like he really wanted to cooperate much with Congress. He’s calling them obstructionists, and blaming them for the high price of oil. Where do you come up with the idea earlier that he wanted to work closely with Congress on this?
MR. FRATTO: No, we certainly do want to work closely with Congress. And I think the point is, the only way to get this done, to get the moratorium lifted so that we can begin drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and on the other elements that the President talked about is through Congress. We need congressional action to get this thing done.
Congress — the Democrats in Congress, either with a Republican majority or under Democratic control, there’s no question their position on drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf or ANWR has been relatively clear, just as much as it’s been clear for us that we would like to open up those areas. And that’s a fact.
Q Well, since it’s clear that Congress is not going to do what the President wants, why doesn’t he take the step himself and let the —
MR. FRATTO: No, I don’t think it’s clear.
Shorter Tony Farto: John McCain Is Trying To Fool People
Q Tony, the Democrats have made it clear for a long time that they’re absolutely opposed to this. This appears to be going nowhere. Are there any other ideas that the White House is exploring that can actually do something about the high gas prices?
MR. FRATTO: There is — anyone who is — anyone out there saying that something can be done overnight or in a matter of months to deal with high gasoline prices is trying to fool people. There is no tool in the toolbox out there that will lower gas prices overnight or in weeks, and probably not even in months. People — there have been a lot of things talked about out there.
Q But one of the people who is saying that something could be done overnight is John McCain, with the tax moratorium. You’re not trying to say he’s trying to —
MR. FRATTO: He has a view on the tax moratorium and that’s his position, and we talked about looking for it. The President has been looking at it, but what the President has been focused on is the root of the problem, which is supply and demand.
Tony Farto, Butt Of All Jokes
Q The second is, there’s apparently an EPA draft — a draft of the EPA’s coming report suggests that the agency believes that automakers could increase CAFE standards much faster than the President has called for.
MR. FRATTO: I haven’t seen that. I haven’t seen any EPA reports, and I’d refer you to them.
Q Because it hasn’t been released yet —
MR. FRATTO: Okay. (Laughter.)
“I’m Not Here To Defend The Oil Companies”
Q Why is he pushing Congress on this, and not pushing the oil companies that have 33 million acres of leased area that they aren’t developing, that’s not under the —
MR. FRATTO: The first step in development in the oil business is actually exploration. They hold these leases — I’ve heard people up on the Hill, “the oil companies are sitting on leases”, as though the oil companies — I’m not here to defend oil companies; I’m just telling you that they have every incentive in the world to go out there and pump more oil. I mean, Ann, if you’ve got —
Q — without Congress lifting the ban?
MR. FRATTO: I’m sorry?
Q Are there not leases out there that are not — that have already proved — that have not been developed, that they could be doing and they’re not doing?
MR. FRATTO: It’s not a question of whether — oil companies can say that on any given piece of lease that they’re holding whether it’s productive or not. I’m just telling you I can’t imagine an oil company not wanting to produce oil today. And what we see are oil companies out there looking to try to produce and do more drilling. But it takes many, many years, and millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to go from a lease to actually pumping oil.
Q Perhaps I was inelegant in how I asked the question. Are there not leases that are out there that could be developed, explored and developed right now, and which do not need to lift any kind of ban, and the companies haven’t done it? Why isn’t the President turning to the oil companies and telling them to explore some of the leases they currently hold?
MR. FRATTO: I think what we have heard and what the oil companies have testified to is that they are trying to develop those. You can’t develop all of them at once. They make their priorities and they go to the ones that they think they can develop and bring the product to market. I think it’s — I can’t think of a product out there that has seen —
Q But that’s not the point, Tony. The point is —
MR. FRATTO: It is the point, though. I mean — I’m sorry, the —
Q Are the oil companies doing everything they can to explore and drill where they already have permission, without opening up the OCS any more, or ANWR?
MR. FRATTO: I can’t speak to every business decision that oil producers make, and I’m not here to defend what they can do and can’t do; they can answer those questions for themselves.
Q Is the President satisfied the oil companies are doing all they can –
MR. FRATTO: Like I said, I can’t imagine their incentives being better aligned than to go out and develop. And I think —
Q I’m not quarreling with you on that, I’m just saying —
MR. FRATTO: And I think they are.