President Obama delivered what was billed as an energy speech on Thursday in Maryland, though his remarks took campaign overtones when Obama mocked his Republican challengers as members of the "Flat Earth Society."
While he didn’t mention any of the GOP presidential hopefuls by name, the president derided the Republican field as being stuck in the past.
"Lately, we’ve heard a lot of professional politicians, a lot of the folks who are, you know, running for a certain office. Who shall go unnamed," Obama said. "They've been talking down new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas guzzlers."
"We’re trying to move towards the future," the president continued, "they want to be stuck in the past."
A number of the Republican candidates have hammered Obama on the issue of soaring gas prices, particularly former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has promised energy prices that would lower the price of gas to $2.50 per gallon.
Obama also took it a step further, comparing the Republican candidates to the naysayers who thought explorer Christopher Columbus would fall off the edge of the Earth when he set sail for the New World.
“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail...They must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. They would not have believed that the Earth was round,” the president joked to a laughing crowd. (For the uninitiated, the Flat Earth Society dates back to the 1800s and consists of people who believe the Earth is not round.)
The president also insisted that he is not against drilling within the U.S. for more oil.
“Over the last three years my administration has opened millions of acres of land in 23 different states for oil and gas exploration. Offshore, offshore, I’ve directed my administration to open up more than 75 percent of our potential resources. That includes an area in the Gulf of Mexico we opened up a few months ago that could produce more than 400 million barrels of oil," he said. "So do not tell me that we're not drilling. We're drilling all over this country."
And while trying to sympathize with people who are struggling with rising gas prices, Obama claimed that this was one of the reasons he fought so hard in the last few months for the payroll tax cut extension.
“We passed a payroll tax [cut] at the beginning of this year to make sure that everybody has an extra $40 in their paycheck on average, in part, because we anticipated that gas prices might be going up like they did last year, given tight world oil supplies.”
But he acknowledged that $40 dollars isn’t necessarily enough, “That doesn't make it easier for a lot of families out there that are just struggling to get by. This is tough.”