(MALJAMAR, N.M.) — President Obama had a simple greeting for his New Mexico hosts when he arrived at a Roswell airfield Wednesday afternoon: “I come in peace,” he said.
The words — a playful reference to the famous 1947 Roswell UFO incident that continues to capture imaginations — could have as easily been directed to skeptics of his energy policy.
Obama’s visit to an active oil field on federal lands was squarely aimed at countering criticism from the right over rising gas prices and claims that domestic oil production is declining on his watch.
“We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. More than 70 of those rigs are right here in this area,” Obama said in a speech before a ConocoPhillips rig, idled for the event.
“In fact, business is so good that today the biggest problem is finding enough qualified truck drivers to move all the oil that’s coming out of these wells down to the refinery. Too much oil — that’s a good problem to have,” he said.
Domestic oil production overall in the U.S. is at its highest level in the past eight years, according to the Energy Department.
But production on federal lands was down 14 percent year-over-year in 2011, and overall remains 13 percent lower than it was in 2003.
Still, Obama — who has made renewable energy a hallmark of his administration — insisted he’s not backing away from drilling or searching for more oil.
“You wouldn’t know it from listening to some of these folks running for office, but producing more oil here in our own country has been, and will continue to be, a key part of our energy strategy,” Obama said. “We’re drilling all over the place.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Jethro Mullen Ivana Kottasova and Patrick Gillespie, CNN
Jose Pagliery, CNN