Obama’s next term: fossil fuel foray

By Brian Sussman

In President Obama’s post-election victory speech he spoke of creating a future that would not be “threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Obama expounded on that remark the following week in a press event stating, “I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.”

Get ready. The President is to exact vengeance on the American people for their use of carbon-based fuels which, according to him, are destroying the planet. The result of his actions will raise the price of energy, spoil job creation, and increase the flow of U.S. cash into the unsavory coffers of the OPEC nations.

To gain an understanding of what Obama will do during his next four years let’s review how he punished fossil fuel producers during his first term, beginning first with the oil industry.

On May 6, 2010, three weeks after the onset of the massive British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration autocratically imposed a 30-day moratorium on new deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf and suspended drilling on rigs working in water deeper than 500 feet. This mandate immediately froze operations on 33 operational oil platforms, and another eight that were under construction.  Prior to the expiration of the moratorium the stay was extended for an extra six months.

In conjunction with the BP spill the President also ordered the Atlantic Coast off limits to energy development through 2017.  This was a stunning reversal of a promise Obama made to the people of Virginia just two months earlier when he announced the lease-sale of nearly 3 million acres off their coast, a move that would enable America to harness some 130 million barrels of oil, and over a trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  According to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell the offshore projects would, “speed our economic recovery” by creating 2,578 full-time jobs annually and $271 million in new state and local revenue.

Meanwhile, the Gulf freeze was challenged in Federal court twice, with the Administration losing both times.  The first loss occurred on June 22, 2010 when U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans stated that Interior Department “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” when it incorrectly assumed that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger. Feldman went so far as to say the administration’s motives seemed to be “driven by political or social agendas on all sides.”

Unfazed, the Interior Department issued a second challenge, but that appeal was rebuffed in early July, 2010 by a three-judge panel assigned to the case in the 5th District Court of Appeals.  The panel stated it was open to a further hearing on the merits of the appeal in September.  However, the government wasn’t interested in waiting for that.  Instead, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar painted the getaway car a different color and quickly sped away to pull the next anti-oil caper.  On July 12, Salazar issued a “suspension” on all floating-type rigs, like the one used by BP, in any depth of the Gulf’s waters, through November 30.  About 36 rigs were instantly impacted and shut down.

But the Obama administration punishment to Big Oil didn’t end there.  Simultaneous to the initial Gulf abeyance, the administration also suspended applications for exploratory drilling in the Alaskan Arctic until an unspecified date in 2011—which, due to the short drilling season in Alaskan waters, really meant the summer of 2012.  This was a shock to Shell because they had received permits from the Interior Department in 2009 to drill five wells in the region—three in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort Sea.  Ironically, drilling operations never really progressed much this summer due to immense amounts of sea ice (so much for global warming) setting the project back further.

Meantime, back in the Gulf, in January 2012, with great fanfare, Obama announced he was opening up 38 million acres for drilling.  The announcement was a sham. Most of the acreage in question was previously set aside by the Bush administration for exploration and development but the plan was halted pending environmental review.

As for coal, in his 2008 campaign for the presidency, then Senator Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that the “notion of no coal . . . is an illusion,” adding that he favored a cap-and-trade system. “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama continued. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

The truth is the Obama administration is on a mission to destroy the American coal industry. In the last four years the U.S. has gone from producing 1.2 billion tons of coal to about 800 million tons.

The regulations that have hurt the industry most are the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards, which aim to eliminate air pollution.  The MACT standards are so rigid that it’s not feasible for many coal plants to make the capital investments required to meet the new regulations.  In recent decades the coal industry has invested over $100 billion in cleaning up it’s emissions to meet the standards put forward in the federal Clean Air Act, but because of MACT, that’s not enough. As a result under Obama’s watch 111 of the nation’s nearly 500 coal-fire plants have been shut down, with more on the way.

Our natural gas supply has been attacked, or perhaps we should say “fracked” by Team Obama too.  Obama’s war on natural gas went into overdrive in April when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its first-ever regulations to curb air pollution from hydraulic fracturing, the drilling process commonly known as “fracking.” By 2015, natural-gas and oil drillers will be forced to invest in new equipment that curtails certain emissions from fracked wells.

Over the past 50 years, tens of thousands of oil and gas wells have been drilled using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” (6,000 recently in the Bakken shale region of North Dakota alone).  During this period only two significant cases have suggested contamination of sub-surface water; both were discovered by the EPA, and both involve questionable if not fraudulent data.

Natural-gas production has boomed in recent years, as the fracking process and other new techniques have improved. Combined with advancements in horizontal drilling technology, fracking has spurred explosive growth in natural-gas production from shale. The federal Energy Information Administration estimates that shale gas will grow from 23 percent of U.S. gas production in 2010 to 49 percent in 2035.  Natural gas is clean burning, plentiful and cheap. But critics warn that the new environmental rules could severely curtail the natural-gas boom, a boom that has brought down prices to 10-year lows. In response to such criticism, the President announced an executive order earlier this month to form a fracking oversight group that directs a dozen federal agencies to collaborate in bolstering “safe and responsible unconventional domestic natural gas development.”

And the last time federal bureaucracy aided an industry that provides a vital resource to the people was…?

“EPA’s latest oil and gas regulations are a continuation of President Obama’s attack on hydraulic fracturing,” charged Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), ranking minority leader in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “President Obama has crafted a very clever election strategy: he’s going around the country touting the virtues of natural gas, while at the same time, he’s completely undermining natural gas development by working aggressively to shut down hydraulic fracturing — and these new air rules are very much a part of that agenda.”

Obama has been at war with oil, coal, and natural gas for four years. He’s now a lame duck president who has made it clear he wants to save the planet.  Prepare for the President to double down with his attack on fossil fuels. As a result the U.S. will continue to be OPEC’s favorite sucker, unemployment will continue to rise within the coal community, and the only significant fracking will be on private land—not the federally owned and managed land that belongs to We The People.

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