Industry group: Obama should help lower gas prices

President Barack Obama could lower gas prices by opening up more federal land and offshore areas for oil drilling, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said Tuesday.

Gerard, on a conference call with reporters, argued that Obama is misguided in saying “there’s no silver bullet” to combat high world oil prices or rising prices at the pump.

“We strongly disagree, and so do most Americans,” said Gerard, who heads the industry organization.

He cited a $16-per-barrel drop in oil prices in 2008 after after President George W. Bush announced he would lift a moratorium on offshore drilling.

“That was a signal to the marketplace: Help is on the way,” Gerard said.

Gerard said the prospect of further gains in domestic oil supplies would change world expectations and put downward pressure on world market for crude oil, which accounts for three-fourths the prices of gasoline costs.

When asked why oil prices have remained high despite increases in domestic production, Gerard acknowledged that the price of crude is set on a global basis and that several factors affect the price.

“So you have to look at some of the other variables,” he said.

Still, he insisted that Obama should take more action to push production even higher.

He said that more than 85 percent of offshore areas are off-limits for drilling, and he said the Obama administration should provide more access to domestic supplies of oil and gas, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce regulations on the energy industry and refrain from targeting oil companies for more taxes.

“If the administration will do these things, our companies will produce more American oil and gas … and help drive down prices,” Gerard said. “That is what our country needs. It’s what our people want us to do.”

Gerard gave a cautious response on whether the planned construction of the domestic stretch of the Keystone XL pipeline  could lower global crude oil prices.

“It will be helpful,” he said.

Gerard, however, criticized the administration’s decision to reject a permit for the border-crossing section of the pipeline. He said the entire Keystone XL pipeline would have helped transport crude oil from Canada, North Dakota and Montana fields to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

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Zain Shauk covers energy for the Houston Chronicle. He can be reached by phone at 713.362.7572 or through his email address: zain.shauk@chron.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ZainShauk