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Molly Moorhead
By Molly Moorhead April 2, 2012

Energy group says Obama objects to energy exploration in Alaska

Bearing the bold title "Nine Dollar Gas," a new ad by the American Energy Alliance attacks President Barack Obama’s energy policies and blames him for high gasoline prices.

It mentions the solar technology company Solyndra and the controversial Keystone oil pipeline, two issues with a tenuous-at-best relationship to what we’re currently paying at the pump.

The ad, released March 27, 2012, also says this: "Obama opposed exploring for energy in Alaska."

That’s the claim we’ll check here.

Source of the claim

On the screen beneath the Alaska claim is a citation for an Associated Press story dated Feb. 17, 2012. A spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, a conservative group tied to the industry-funded Institute for Energy Research, sent us a link to the story headlined "House passes drilling-friendly energy package."

The story was about a House plan to expand oil and gas drilling that was included in a $260 billion transportation bill.

"The legislation, which 21 Republicans voted against and 21 Democrats voted for, would open the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida and areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling, lift a ban on drilling in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and order leases to be offered for Western oil shale," the story said.

"Obama has said he would not pursue drilling off the Pacific and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has pushed back offering leases in the Atlantic until at least 2017," it continued.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an area about the size of South Carolina managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to preserve habitat and protect birds, plants and animals such as caribou, polar bears and gray wolves.

While Obama has resisted efforts to drill for oil in the refuge, we found another Associated Press story dated the same day that clears the way for other drilling in the 49th state.

Under the headline "With Obama's OK, Shell may soon start drilling for oil in arctic," the story said the White House had okayed Shell’s response plan for dealing with a spill in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska's northwest coast, an important step before drilling can go forward. The company, which called the plan’s approval a "major milestone," said it hopes to drill up to three wells there during the summer of 2012. It also plans two wells in the Beaufort Sea, off the northern coast. Shell’s disaster response plan for that area won approval in March.

The moves angered some environmentalists and native Alaskan groups, who questioned Shell’s claim in the Chukchi Sea plan that it would be able to clean up nearly all oil in the event of a spill. But Obama’s interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said any exploration in Alaska would be done "under the strongest oversight, safety requirements and emergency response plans ever established," according to the AP story.

Our ruling

The American Energy Alliance ad said that Obama "opposed exploring for energy in Alaska."

That’s a narrow slice of reality. It’s true that the president opposes opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, but the administration has approved plans that allow for expanded drilling in other parts of Alaska, including clearing a process that could let Shell sink new rigs in two Alaskan offshore areas as soon as summer 2012.

The ad leaves out that significant piece of the picture. We rate it Half True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

American Energy Alliance, "Nine Dollar Gas," March 27, 2012

Associated Press, "House passes drilling-friendly energy package," Feb. 17, 2012
citation AP story, 2/27/12

Associated Press, "With Obama's OK, Shell may soon start drilling for oil in arctic," Feb. 17, 2012

Los Angeles Times, "Arctic drilling: Beaufort Sea oil spill response plan approved," March 28, 2012

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ANWR website, accessed April 2, 2012, "More pipeline piffle (and an Alaskan absurdity)," March 30, 2012

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Energy group says Obama objects to energy exploration in Alaska

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