By Scott Weeden, Hart Energy The race for the presidency is in full swing, and the energy industry is firmly in the sights of both parties. Unfortunately, from the rhetoric being broadcast, neither candidate for president seems to have a very strong grasp of how the oil industry works. Republican Mitt Romney is telling the voters that he can return the US to $2 per gallon gasoline by opening more onshore and offshore acreage to drilling. But, the industry can’t run on $2 gasoline. Why not? The last time the price of gasoline was $2 was in 2004. Then, the price of crude oil was around $25 per barrel. Does anyone think the price of crude oil is going back to $25/bbl? That’s what it would take to get back to $2 gasoline. What does Romney think will happen to all of the excess oil and natural gas that is being produced in the US at crude prices around $90 to $95/bbl? I can tell him what will happen. The number of drilling rigs being stacked will skyrocket, and oil and natural gas production will drop through the floor. Today’s record level of natural gas production is unsustainable at $25/bbl oil. Of course, when that happens, oil prices will spike upwards again. Why aren’t his advisors making that clear to him? Perhaps those advisors are hoping that the oil production in the Eagle Ford and other shale plays in Texas will allow the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) once again to set the world price for crude oil. I know that is not going to happen. It wasn’t until OPEC supplanted the TRRC in setting crude prices in 1973 that gasoline prices rose to $1 per gallon. Today’s prices are a far cry from the $0.25 per gallon I paid for gasoline in the 1960s. World demand has altered the playing field when it comes to crude oil and gasoline prices. With its current bonanza from shale plays, the US can continue to keep its gasoline prices below prices in Europe and Asia. But it is not going to drop those gasoline prices to $2 per gallon again. Then, there are the Democrats. President Barack Obama has laid claim to the increase in oil and natural gas production. However, that increase has little or nothing to do with his administration’s policies. Instead, the US oil and gas industry stepped up its technological advances and opened up a cornucopia of light crude, condensate, and natural gas with little or no help from federal government policies. It is irritating to watch the current administration brag about its efforts to open offshore areas for leasing – in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). In press release after press release, the administration touts the millions of acres it has opened, as though those were brand new areas that haven’t been offered before. Perhaps that is true in deep water, but not in the shallower waters of the central GoM. Even when governors of coastal states like North Carolina and Virginia are begging to open the OCS for leasing, the administration turns a deaf ear – and offers another GoM sale. Then the fiascoes with the Keystone XL Pipeline and LNG export approvals add to the political mess both parties have made of energy policy. The administration has delayed decisions on both of these issues until after the election so as not to upset key constituencies. Democratic senators and representatives – primarily from non-oil-producing states – are asking the administration to put the brakes on LNG exports. Republicans – primarily in oil-producing states – are pushing for approval of the LNG projects and the pipeline. It is enough to make one somewhat cynical when it comes to any Congress – Democrat or Republican – being able to instigate a national energy policy. I’ve watched two Republican presidents, George Bush and George W. Bush, who were staunch industry allies that were not able to come close to getting an energy policy approved. The cynic in me keeps asking, what is going to make this election any different? The industry needs to keep doing what is does so well: find and develop oil and gas resources. The next biggest job is educating the public – and our politicians. Once the election is over, the emphasis on energy will quickly slip into the background – until gasoline prices hit $5 per gallon. Then the arguments will begin again. Hopefully, then there will be a meeting of the minds and a greater understanding of how the energy industry makes this country and the world run. The US needs a workable energy policy. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at