Obama Plays Politics with America's Energy Future Print
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, January 18 2012
The pipeline of abuses against America’s energy producers could stretch from San Francisco to Boston.

After three years of waging a war to shut down America’s domestic energy producers of petroleum and coal, President Barack Obama has now refused to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the United States, sacrificing thousands of jobs and millions in economic activity, all to shore up his liberal base at the expense of the rest of the nation. 

Perhaps that’s why last week the President made one little noticed exception to his policy of forced scarcity: natural gas from shale formations.  Surprise, surprise, a report issued by the White House singled out a reservoir that just so happens to lie underneath three Northeastern states the President needs to win for reelection. 

The pipeline of abuses against America’s energy producers could stretch from San Francisco to Boston.  In the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill disaster, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar used compliance failures by BP and its federal regulator to blanket the entire Gulf Coast with a moratorium on issuing oil drilling permits.  A report published by the National Ocean Industries Association estimated the total cost of Salazar’s six-month-long kneejerk reaction: “The effective six-month moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas production will result in the loss of approximately $2.1 billion in output, 8,169 jobs, over $487 million in wages, and nearly $98 million in forfeited state tax revenues in the Gulf states alone.” 

Workers in West Virginia’s coal industry are still angry over the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to rescind a mining permit in Logan County in January of last year.  Arch Coal, the holder of the permit, had invested millions in infrastructure preparing to use the mine when the EPA issued a surprise ruling canceling the four year old project on specious ecological grounds.  The proof was in the timing.  EPA’s rescission came within two months of Republicans retaking the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, inspiring the Obama Administration to shift from legislation to executive rulemaking to achieve its goals. 

But it’s not like the Obama Administration is above promising a vague reprieve on forced scarcity to score political points. 

In March 2010, the President announced he would open half of the Atlantic seaboard to offshore drilling for the first time.  The move was intended to make the President appear as a supporter of offshore drilling and job creation, but the soonest any drilling would be done was estimated to be years away. The BP spill gave the administration the excuse it needed to end the charade, which it did in December 2010 by banning outright any drilling in the Atlantic for seven years.  A year later, the President’s offshore drilling overtures were definitively silenced when not one of the twelve proposed drilling leases for the 2012-2017 timeframe included a location on the eastern seaboard. 

So with the New Year and President Obama facing another general election campaign in 2012, he’s out again with a politically motivated energy decision.  Buried in a White House jobs report were several passages unearthed by the Wall Street Journal extolling the virtues of natural gas extraction from shale rock formations.  Engineers shoot water into the rock to fracture it, and then bring the mixture of gas, water and rock to the surface.  The process is known as fracking, and it too has its environmental critics.  But unlike the Republican-dominated Gulf states, one of the largest deposits of natural gas fracking lies underneath Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York – three Northeastern states Obama needs to carry again to win reelection.  Moreover, since the Marcellus Shale formation also touches West Virginia and Kentucky, there’s a chance natural gas could be sold on the campaign trail as the new coal. 

Too bad for the coal companies and their employees; they will probably be out of business thanks to being in the wrong industry when Obama picks his winners and losers.