Texas is not considered a battleground state, but the Lone Star State is at the epicenter of two critical issues – energy and immigration – that were highlighted in this week’s presidential debate.
The fireworks started early over the issue of high gas prices, which neither candidate actually addressed. Instead, President Obama contended that he had drastically increased domestic production of energy and Mitt Romney claimed exploration had actually been reduced over the past four years.
Texas Rep. Michael Burgess is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and explained where things really stand.
“They’re both right,” said Burgess, “but President Obama is ignoring the fact that actual drilling activity on public lands, federal lands that he controls is way down. It’s the drilling on private lands, which the president cannot control directly that has gone way up.”
Burgess says the decline in energy production on public land is not an accident.
“There’s no mistake in my mind about what another Obama administration would mean for energy production in this country. They are looking for ways to inhibit the production of energy, whether it be his folks at the Environmental Protection Agency who have been coming forth with their rules on hydraulic fracturing or whether it’s people on Fish and Wildlife and the Endangered Species Act folks who are going to attempt to put lands off limits.”
Obama has stressed his embrace of natural gas production at the debates and at the most recent State of the Union address. Burgess says it’s just talk.
“The State of the Union moment was like something out of a Franz Kafka novel,” said Burgess. “The president spends more time talking about natural gas production by fracking than he does his own health care law. I thought I had gone into a parallel universe where the president was channeling his inner George Bush.”
Burgess says the EPA has picked up the pace on crippling economic restrictions after the failure of the Obama Cap & Trade legislation in the previous Congress. He says the administration has even more repressive ideas that are on hold until after the election.
“They have held off with some of their ideas because they could be a potent political weapon to use against them. Starting another four-year term where he doesn’t have to worry about re-election, I think it’s Katie-bar-the-door and the Environmental Protection Agency is going to be the central focus of the president’s restriction on developing American energy.”
Immigration was also a point of contention at the town hall debate, with both candidates taking a compassionate tone but Burgess says the president’s handling of the issue earlier this year was unconstitutional when he changed immigration law without the consent of Congress to extend work permits to young illegals.
“This is hard and this is hard for a reason,” said Burgess. “The country is divided on this. It’s going to take something called leadership, which the president has refused to provide.”
Burgess says Obama’s actions are not only outside the bounds of his office but have made the immigration problem worse.
“Whoever is president over the next four years is left with a very muddled policy with no clear parameters and no clear direction, and I don’t think he’s done anyone any favors,” said Burgess. “So regardless of how you feel about the predicament of someone who was brought here very young before they knew they were breaking the law or not, regardless of how you feel about that as a class of people, the president has made the situation and the conditions on the ground actually that much worse.”