Senator: Gulf Coast Residents ‘Galled’ by Obama’s Suggestion We Buy More Brazilian Oil

April 4, 2011 - 4:01 AM

President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave prior to boarding Air Force prior to departing San Salvador, El Salvador, Wednesday, March 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) told CNSNews.com that residents of the Gulf Coast, whom he represents, were “galled” when President Obama went to Brazil two weeks ago and suggested they ramp up energy production so the U.S. could become one of the nation’s “best customers.”

Obama, Vitter said, “went on that trip and made comments encouraging Brazilian offshore development and saying we want the U.S. to be your best customer. Particularly, those of us on the Gulf Coast found that pretty galling. How about starting in the Gulf?”

In remarks on March 19 in Brasilia, Obama told Brazilian businessmen, “By some estimates, the oil you recently discovered off the shores of Brazil could amount to twice the reserves we have in the United States. 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.”

As CNSNews.com previously reported, under President Obama, the U.S. Export-Import Bank gave Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras, a $2 billion loan to develop new drilling opportunities off the shore of that South American country, prompting Vitter to send the bank’s president, Fred Hochberg, a letter expressing the “frustration” of Louisianans that the loan was given while domestic permitting was “nearly stalled.”

Meanwhile, however, Obama’s Interior Department has been in a fierce court battle over how quickly to approve new drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon spill last summer.

In February, Louisiana District Court Judge Martin Feldman ruled the Obama administration in contempt of court for what he said was “dismissive conduct” and their “increasingly inexcusable” refusal to approve permits that had met new standards. As of Vitter’s March 17 letter, just two permits had been granted for Gulf oil drilling.

CNSNews.com asked Vitter whether he had received a response in the past two weeks. He nodded that he had not and then explained his frustration.

“The day before the president went to Brazil, as you alluded to, I sent a letter to the administration asking some detailed questions about this ExIm Bank loan of $2 billion guaranteed, backed by U.S. taxpayers and it’s to develop Brazilian offshore opportunities while we’re shutting down U.S. offshore opportunities,” Vitter said.

“In addition, the president went on that trip and made comments encouraging Brazilian offshore development and saying we want the U.S. to be your best customer. Particularly, those of us on the Gulf Coast found that pretty galling,” he added.

“How about starting in the Gulf?” Vitter asked. “How about starting by having the U.S. be our own best customer and developing U.S. jobs right here at home?”

Vitter held the press conference to announce he was introducing a bill to do just that. He is calling it a “3-D” bill, which stands for Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy and Deficit Reduction.

The legislation specifically would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling; direct Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to sell leases in whichever planned areas of the Outer Continental Shelf have seen commercial interest; limit the amount of time the government can hold up a permit for environmental and judicial review; and require the government to take action on stalled onshore permits in Utah, West Virginia and Alaska.

Referring to his request that the U.S. be its own best customer, Vitter said, “That’s where we start, and this bill takes a number of steps along that path.”

The bill would also create a fund for renewable energy development that Vitter told reporters would come at “no cost to the taxpayer” because 25 percent of the tax revenue from ANWR would be used to fund it, and it would only be implemented after the budget is balanced.

Vitter’s staff provided reporters with estimates of the new productivity the bill’s changes would create. They claim “3-D” would generate roughly 2 million new jobs, $10 trillion in “economic activity,” and $2.4 trillion dollars in tax receipts to the federal government over 30 years.

The numbers were compiled by the Senate staff from a variety of sources, including the Congressional Research Service and the non-profit American Energy Alliance.

The following is a transcript of Sen. Vitter’s exchange with CNSNews.com:

CNSNews.com: Senator Vitter, have you heard back from the White House since you sent them a letter asking about that $2 billion loan to Brazil and if any of you have comment on the notion of being a customer of Brazil—

Vitter: Yeah, I’ll start with that and I’m sure my colleagues will want to chime in. The day before the President went to Brazil, as you alluded to, I sent a letter to the administration asking some detailed questions about this ExIm bank loan of $2 billion guaranteed, backed by U.S. taxpayers and it’s to develop Brazilian offshore opportunities while we’re shutting down U.S. offshore opportunities. In addition, the President went on that trip and made comments encouraging Brazilian offshore development and saying we want that U.S. to be your best customer. Particularly, those of us on the Gulf Coast found that pretty galling. How about starting in the Gulf? How about starting by having the U.S. be our own best customer and developing U.S. jobs right here at home. That’s where we start, and this bill takes a number of steps along that path. I’m sure you’ll all want to chime in—