Obama brings energy tour to Oklahoma, especially Cushing
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2012
3/22/12 at 9:03 AM
Related story: Politicians and fans scramble for a limited number of tickets to the event.
World Senior Writer Wayne Greene will be live tweeting from President Obama’s visit to Oklahoma on Thursday. Follow him at @Greene_Wayne.
President Barack Obama takes his two-day, four-state energy tour to Payne County on Thursday.
Estimated travel cost for the entire trip: nearly $1.7 million, not counting security or the cost of getting from Air Force One to the remote locations on the president's itinerary.
Obama flew into Oklahoma City on Wednesday evening on Air Force One. He will travel Thursday to the Cushing area, where according to Associated Press reports he will announce efforts to expedite the permit for the southern half of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Cushing is the historic pipeline crossroads of the United States and the starting point for the 485-mile southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline, designed to deal with a bottleneck of oil being produced in the Midwest.
Obama has taken political heat for his refusal to permit the 1,700-mile northern leg of the pipeline from Canada. Obama was pressured by environmentalists not to allow that portion of the pipeline to be built.
Because of the Canadian border crossing, Obama has much more authority over the future of the northern leg of the pipeline than the section from Cushing to the Gulf Coast.
The president's Oklahoma visit is not open to the public, but it is being paid for by taxpayers.
Maj. Michelle Lai, public affairs officer for the 89th Airlift Wing, said the exact costs of this trip aren't available but that the Air Force estimates that flights on Air Force One cost an average of $179,750 an hour.
That estimate is a calculation based on annual flight time totals and the annual costs of fuel, flight consumables, depot-level maintenance, and aircraft and engine overhaul costs, Lai said.
It doesn't include fixed costs, such as pilot salary, which are the same whether Air Force One is flying or parked.
Based on estimated flight times for this trip, that figures to a total of $1,692,647.
The travel costs don't include the price of getting the president from airports to his final destination, which can be a considerable distance.
Obama flew into Roswell, N.M., during Wednesday's portion of the trip and took a Marine helicopter 79 miles to Maljamar, N.M., home of more than 70 active drilling rigs, to make the point that he is committed to more domestic oil and gas production. He then took the helicopter back to Roswell, at an undetermined cost.
Air Force One landed at Midwest City's Tinker Field, but the president's primary Oklahoma destination was about 50 miles away.
This week's trip is classified as official White House business, so the president's flight costs are paid by the federal government. Presidential travel for political activities is billed to the Democratic Party at a complex rate set by law, Lai said. She said she didn't know how that rate compared to the $179,750 an hour rate.
The White House Press Office couldn't specify who would be traveling with the president.
White House staff and members of Congress on official business travel with the president for free, but friends or family members traveling for personal or political reasons reimburse the federal government at the first-class travel rate for equivalent flights, Lai said.
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Police Department said the department doesn't have any estimate of the local cost of security for the president's visit. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety didn't immediately respond to similar questions.
The Payne County Sheriff's Office referred security-cost questions to the White House, which referred questions to the U.S. Secret Service in Washington, which referred questions to the Oklahoma City Secret Service Office, which didn't immediately respond to telephone inquiries.
What they're saying: Leaders comment on President Obama's trip to Oklahoma
"I hope that while President Obama is in Oklahoma he takes some time to listen to our citizens, many of whom work for the energy industry, which he claims to support. I think they will tell him that - far from supporting the responsible domestic production of American-made energy, his administration has undermined it at every turn. ... The president and his party in Washington continue to support an aggressively anti-energy agenda that will severely hamper the American economy and put the United States at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the world."
- Gov. Mary Fallin
"We're thrilled that the president is going to visit Oklahoma. We're delighted that he is going to make an appearance and acknowledge that Oklahoma is a major energy producer. We believe Oklahoma is well positioned to lead our country in future sources of energy, so we're delighted that he will be coming to acknowledge that, and we're obviously feeling very happy about the direction that the country is going with the economy improving and the job market looking better. We think we're moving in the right direction, and we think energy is going to be a big part of that."
- Oklahoma Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Dana Orwig
"President Obama's visit to Oklahoma is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to cover up his massive failures on gas prices and energy security. Oklahomans are feeling the pain at the pump, and they are rightfully angry at the Obama administration. But what does the president offer? Nothing more than a speech filled with pathetic excuses."
- Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell
"President Obama claiming credit for speeding up the Keystone Pipeline is like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet - It is claiming credit where credit isn't due. This is clearly an attempt to deflect attention from $4 gas and his failed energy policies, and Oklahomans won't buy it. ... Simply put, the southern portion of Keystone - from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast - is being built in spite of the Obama administration, not because of them."
- U.S. Rep. John Sullivan
Republican claims that President Barack Obama is holding back domestic energy production are "simply not true. ... According to the Energy Information Administration, domestic production decreased by 15 percent under President Bush, from 2 billion barrels in 2003 to 1.8 billion barrels in 2008, and the price of crude hit an all-time high of $155.04 per barrel. Contrary to Republicans' claims, domestic production has increased by 11 percent under President Obama, once again reaching 2 billion barrels. Imports have decreased rapidly, and we became a net exporter in 2011."
- MoveOn.org regional organizer Ginny Webster
"Even though President Obama has no authority over whether the Cushing portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline is built, he is taking credit for its construction. He continues to champion an energy policy that promotes high gas prices and overbearing and illegal regulations on the energy industry. ... As attorney general, it is my job to protect Oklahoma ratepayers and defend our state interests against an administration that unfortunately continues its quest to throw up every road block possible - whether it's legal or not - to kill the oil industry and naively claim the nation can be sustained on renewable energy alone."
- Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt
"I am very interested to hear what he has to say. Obviously we have not always agreed on energy policy, but I think it is very, very important that we hear him out and that we take advantage of the opportunity to have the president of the United States in Oklahoma. I am excited about that opportunity."
- Speaker of the House Kris Steele
Original Print Headline: Obama brings energy tour to OK
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
President Barack Obama greets guests on the tarmac upon arrival at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/Associated Press
Invited guest Judy Cawthon takes photos as she arrives for President Barack Obama visits the TransCanada Pipe Yard near Cushing. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
President Barack Obama greets Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett (red tie) as he exits Air Force One at Tinker Air Force Base on Wednesday. BRYAN TERRY/The Oklahoman