Politics versus American Energy Security

There seems to be a great disconnect between administration rhetoric and actual administration policy.  Here I will examine two examples, policy on outer continental shelf drilling for oil and gas, and actions on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

White House rhetoric:

“We need to deploy American assets, innovation, and technology so that we can safely and responsibly develop more energy here at home and be a leader in the global energy economy.” – White House website.

“[T]he Obama Administration has launched the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history to ensure that our nation can safely and responsibly expand development of its offshore energy resources.” – White House website

The reality:

Exploring for oil and gas offshore has been an on-again, off-again circus.  The latest round is a de facto moratorium.  On November 8, 2011, the Obama administration announce a draft plan that would close exploration drilling on the outer continental shelf until 2017.

OCS-2008This moratorium places some of the most promising areas off limits and blocks some leases that were in progress.  This policy certainly is “aggressive” but misguided.

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring OCS2010additional oil from Canada.  Canada currently supplies us with more oil than all the Persian Gulf sources combined, and this pipeline would put an additional large dent in that unstable source.

The pipeline is awaiting administration approval.  President Obama is caught between his environmentalist lobby supporters who want him to ban the pipeline, and the unions because the pipeline would create many new jobs.  President Obama has decided not to decide until after the 2012 election when he will have less need of these opposing forces.

White House rhetoric:

“As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment.” – President Barack Obama

The reality:

This is a green fantasy that ignores reality.  So-called clean energy or green energy, such as solar and wind generation, is actually a parasite on the economy because neither would exist without government mandates and subsidies.  Expenditures on these programs divert resources that could otherwise be spent on more economical and productive development.

One administration claim is that increased use of solar and wind generation will reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports, but this doesn’t fly because less that 1% of our electricity is produced from petroleum.

The experience in Europe should serve as a warning:

Spain spent €571,138 (Euros) to create each ‘green job’, including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job.” “… the programs creating those jobs also resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs elsewhere in the economy,” and that “each ‘green’ megawatt installed [including solar jobs] destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy.” The study also estimates that between subsidies, and higher production costs, Spaniards would have to pay 31% higher electricity prices to repay the incurred debt.

The administration’s EPA is also promulgating unrealistic regulations which will harm our ability to produce energy.  For a story close to home, The San Pedro Valley News-Sun has a story which starts:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new regulations that, if enacted, could cause the cost of generating electricity to go up substantially in rural areas. In some cases, the cost of implementing the infrastructure to support the regulatory changes is so prohibitive, power generation facilities may be forced to shut down entirely.

Potential regulatory changes involving the sequestering of carbon and how coal ash is used – if enacted – could impact generating stations throughout rural America, including Cochise County, said Geoff Oldfather, the communications, marketing and public relations manager for Arizona Electric Power Cooperative.  (Read the rest of the story here.)

Politics and environmental zealotry are getting in the way of sound energy policy.


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday that he was looking at exporting more oil to China after the United States delayed a decision on a controversial pipeline.  Read more here.

See also:

Obama Clueless on Energy – Part 1

Obama Clueless on Energy – Part 2

Obama administration still clueless on energy

Blowing in the Wind, a look at green jobs

The myth of green jobs

Clean Coal: Boon or Boondoggle?

EIA says Clean Energy program will increase electricity costs 29%

Gasoline Prices and the Obama Energy Policy

When President Obama took office, the national average gasoline price was $1.83 per gallon according to the Energy Information Administration. As of this writing, the national average gasoline price is $3.39 per gallon. There are many factors that determine the price of gasoline, not the least of which is turmoil in the Middle East. The price depends on supply and demand and upon the expectations of supply and demand.

I don’t know if the Obama administration is simply clueless on energy, or if there is a determined ideological effort to cripple fossil fuel supplies in order to promote renewable energy, but the effect of administration policy is to discourage and hinder domestic production of fossil fuels.

In September, 2008, soon to be Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Wall Street Journal, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Gas prices in Europe averaged about $8 a gallon at the time.

Contrary to administration rhetoric that the U.S. should become more energy independent, administration policy seems to be directed to do all it can to stifle domestic production.

Following the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, the administration imposed a drilling moratorium. That moratorium was lifted last October, but in fact still remains in force. The Interior Department has approved just one drilling application although more than 100 are pending. A federal judge ordered that the de facto moratorium be lifted but the administration has ignored that order. In fact, in early February, the federal judge held the Interior Department in contemp of court for dismissively ignoring his ruling to cease the drilling moratorium which the judge had previously struck down as “arbitrary and capricious.” Ironically, the de facto moratorium of Gulf drilling will deprive the federal government of $1.35 billion in royalties this year.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “Obama also reversed an earlier decision by his administration to open access to coastal waters for exploration, instead placing a seven-year ban on drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and Eastern Gulf of Mexico as part of the government’s 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf Program.”

 The U.S. has abundant resources of oil and natural gas in shale deposits. According to the U.S. Geological Survey the U.S. holds more than half of the world’s oil shale resources. The largest known deposits of oil shale are located in a 16,000-square mile area in the Green River formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The USGS’s most recent estimates (April, 2009) show the region may hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil – six times Saudi Arabia’s proven resources, and enough to provide the United States with energy for the next 200 years. But Obama’s Interior Department is reversing Bush-era policy by delaying leases saying they need to take a “fresh look” at the situation.



The EPA has added costly new regulations to refineries over concern with global warming. The EPA is also denying approval of the Keystone pipeline which would increase the amount of oil the U.S. receives from Canada by over a million barrels per day.

If all this were not enough, the Interior Department has instituted a new “wild lands” policy that will bypass Congress in establishment of wilderness areas which will further delay and restrict access to our mineral resources.

The next time you fill your car with gasoline, don’t blame the oil companies for the high prices, the fault lies squarely with Obama’s energy policy.

Obama Clueless on Energy – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at energy policy regarding electricity. This time we look at transportation fuel.

According to the White House website, the Obama administration wants to: Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined. Presumably, the real goal is to be independent of these foreign sources so we are not at their mercy. I agree with this goal, but not the way the administration plans to go about it.

Between coal, oil, oil shale and natural gas, we have sufficient domestic resources to be energy self-sufficient. Government and environmentalists are the only impediments. In Obama’s home state of Illinois, for instance, coal deposits have the energy equivalent of all the oil in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. We could use that to make both gasoline and electricity.

The Minerals Management Service has estimated potential resources of technically recoverable oil and gas in our outer continental shelf as follows:

West coast 10.5 Billion barrels oil, 18.3 Trillion cubic feet (cf) of natural gas;

East coast 3.8 billion barrels oil, 37 Trillion cf gas;

Eastern Gulf of Mexico 3.4 billion barrels oil, 19.4 Trillion cf gas.

Yet all of these resources are off limits due to Congressional moratoria, and these moratoria are not only depriving us of transportation fuel, but they are also depriving the government of considerable revenue.

According to a report at MasterResource.org, the Energy Information Administration has estimated oil and gas production in the United States with and without restrictions. By the end of the next decade (2019), restrictive permitting and tax policies will reduce the potential annual government tax take from oil and gas production by more than the total expected yield of the Obama tax program in the oil and gas sector. In the ten years to 2019, the time-frame used in the government’s tax increase proposal, restrictions and new taxes will have reduced the tax take from oil and gas production by more than $118 billion.

Instead of exploiting our own abundant natural resources, the Obama administration thinks we can “save” our way to energy self-sufficiency.

Obama proposed increasing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Currently, automakers must meet a CAFE standard of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for pickups and SUVs. The Obama proposal would require automakers to raise fuel economy for cars, pickup trucks and SUVs to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Rather than let the free market decide gas mileage, the government is using coercive command and control.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has produced a paper (http://cei.org/pdf/5967.pdf(http://www.cei.org/pdf/5967.pdf)) on why raising CAFE standards is a bad idea. Their main point is that CAFE kills. CAFE restricts the production of larger, heavier vehicles. These vehicles are lower in fuel economy, but they are also safer than similarly equipped smaller cars. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences study concluded that CAFE’s downsizing effect contributed to between 1,300 and 2,600 deaths in a single representative year, and to 10 times that many serious injuries. A 1989 Brookings-Harvard study estimated that CAFE caused a 14- to 27 percent increase in occupant fatalities-an annual toll of 2,200 to 3,900 deaths. A 1999 USA Today analysis concluded that, over its lifetime, CAFE had resulted in 46,000 additional fatalities.

Bottom Line: Obama and Congress are impediments to sound energy policy.