There’s Nothing I Can Do --- I’m Only the President of the United States

There’s Nothing I Can Do --- I’m Only the President of the United States

© David Burton 2012

President Obama changes his energy policy from day to day

     The price of gasoline has been rising toward record highs. The driving public has been clamoring for action. President Obama is telling the American public that he can’t do anything about it! Instead of taking action, or more accurately, telling us why he hasn’t taken any meaningful action since he assumed the office of the President of the United States, he once again tells us it’s not his fault and foists the blame on someone else – this time, “it’s all the fault of the greedy oil companies” and the result of “high crude oil prices driven by geopolitical forces – Middle East instability and increased demand by China and India.”(Ref. 1) Haven’t we heard this before?

     Mr. President, to tell me that as president of the United States you can’t do anything about the problem is insulting. In case you haven’t read your job description, It is your job is to do something! You’ve had nearly four years to do something and you haven’t done anything to head off or solve the problem in all that time. In fact, you’ve exacerbated the problem! And, it’s not like you were blind-sided by the problem. The United States has been facing this dilemma since the Arab oil embargo in the 1970’s.

     Not only are you not solving the problem, but you are giving the American people the misleading impression that actions you have taken have resulted in increased oil and gas production. Nothing could be further from the truth! In a recent “White House report on energy security, {you} assure us that the United States is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.” In addition, you said you are all for “opening new areas in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to exploration.
     “The problem with this claim is that most of the expansion in domestic oil and gas production over the past three years is the result of steps taken by the Bush administration. {You have} actually reduced output from what it would have been had {your} administration not reversed many of President George W. Bush’s policies. [Emphasis mine]
     “Indeed, a 2007 report by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency predicted that oil production from federal lands and offshore sites in 2010 would be 16 percent higher than what {your} policies have actually produced. According to the same report, {your} policies reduced oil production [Emphasis mine] from federal lands and the Gulf of Mexico by 15 percent in 2011 from what it would have been under Bush’s policies and will cause production to decline by another 26 percent in 2012 from the 2010 production high.
     “In addition, the real reason that domestic production is up is because of exploration and production on private and state lands, not federal lands. Production on the latter has actually declined thanks to {your} administration.” (Ref. 1)

     "The bottom line is this administration is taking credit for American energy production while it works to aggressively undermine it." (Ref. 2)

     OK, so you really haven’t done anything to address the problem and, in truth, you’ve actually made the problem worse. What you are doing, in an attempt to deflect the anger of the average citizen from you and your administration, is to point your finger at big oil and blame them for the high cost of oil. You repeat the same old tired refrain to the American people that “your tax dollars subsidize the oil industry.” But, in reality, these subsidies “are tax credits such as the ‘expensing’ of intangible drilling costs, a provision of the tax code since its inception designed to minimize risk for companies engaged in enterprises that, if they produce returns at all, will do so in the future.” Do the oil companies really receive unfair tax subsidies? Consider the following in the context of “subsidies” to oil and gas companies compared to taxpayer funded “incentives to clean energy developers. “Oil and gas producers receive 25 cents per unit of production while wind and solar receive around $24 per unit. Another way of looking at the issue is to note that while fossil fuels get one-third of subsidies today, they account for 80 percent of our total energy. The two thirds that go for renewables account for less than 5 percent of our energy.”(Ref. 1)

     While President Obama doesn’t know what to do to combat the high fuel prices facing Americans, he does know how to feed the taxpayers’ money into green energy initiatives – apparently, he doesn’t trust the America’s private sector to know how to pick the winners in the free market place. He and his administration know better – just see how successful the government was with its investment in Solyndra. It seems that Obama is still a fan of crony capitalism and has learned nothing from the Solyndra fiasco. “During a speech at the University of Miami in February, he touted more of the same, including ‘investing’ in fuel from algae, which he claims could replace up to 17 percent of imported oil.” (Ref. 1) Good luck!

     While the President says he doesn’t know how to solve the problem of high gasoline prices, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, says that he knows what to do. His solution is to call “on Saudi Arabia to boost its oil production in order to suppress a politically intolerable rise in the price of gasoline in the U.S.
     “Such chutzpah, even in this cynical age, is eye-opening, Why should we go to the Saudis on bended knee? Why, for God’s sake, don’t we boost our own oil production?
     “Permits for drilling offshore and on government-owned lands are down sharply since Barack Obama took office. His administration, for instance, refuses to open up … Alaska’s Arctic National wildlife Refuge that is laden with oil and gas. Drilling there could be done with no environmental harm. The President has also stymied the Keystone Pipeline from Canada, which would give us an extra million barrels of oil a day from a friendly neighbor.” (Ref. 3)

     While the President talks a good game, his actions and those of his Democratic cohorts demonstrate that they would rather increase America’s dependence of foreign oil than take the steps needed to guarantee our energy independence and maintain a stable price for energy.

     It should not have come as any surprise to President Obama that there is an energy problem. A global energy problem has existed for over 3 decades. Those of us over 40 recall that, in 1973, several Arab exporting nations imposed an embargo because of the Arab-Israel Yom Kippur war. This Arab oil embargo brought to the attention of the American public the fact that we no longer controlled our supply of petroleum. We found out that we were highly dependent upon imported oil, primarily imported Arab oil. When the oil spigot from the Arab countries was turned off, we saw the cost of unrefined oil jump up alarmingly, spurring double-digit inflation and a painful recession. After a second oil shock in 1979-80, oil’s price hit a new high. In addition to the skyrocketing cost of oil and gasoline, motorists queued up in long lines at gas stations because there was a resultant shortage of fuel at any price. Today, much of America’s economic and national security is mortgaged to some of the world’s most unstable and despotic nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria and even Russia. This is not a desirable situation since secure energy supplies are at the heart of America’s well-being. Some one hundred years ago, Mark Requa, chief engineer of the U.S. Bureau of mines wrote: "We must either plan for a future or we must pass into a condition of commercial vassalage, in time of peace relying on some foreign country for the petroleum wherewith to lubricate the highways of commerce, in time of war at the mercy of the enemy who may . . . control the source of supply." (Ref. 4.) This is as true in 2012 as it was in 1909.

     In 2008, oil prices soared to over $4.00 a gallon. The nation was appalled. Congress held hearings. The oil companies were scolded for the high price of their products and their executives were excoriated for the "obscene profits" of their companies.

     There was panic in the 1970's over the price and supply of petroleum. There was rage at the high price of petroleum in 2008. What has President Obama and his administration done to solve the energy problem since then? He has failed to generate and implement any comprehensive long term energy policy for our nation. As the President has admitted, we continue to be held captive to foreign sources of gas and petroleum and he tells us there is nothing he can do about it.

     Why has he not proposed and put in action a comprehensive plan that would include many of the following steps?

  • Reduce speed limits to 55 MPH.
  • Effectively raise the price of gasoline from imported oil to $7 a gallon and guarantee to maintain that price, inflation adjusted, for a relatively long period of time in order to provide incentives for increasing the supply of domestic supplies of oil and gas and to encourage the commercialization of alternative energy sources.
  • Increase off-shore oil/gas exploration and drilling.
  • Allow oil/gas exploration and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) North Slope in Alaska.
  • Provide meaningful subsidies for the development, installation and maintenance of: solar energy; wind energy and geothermal energy.
  • Streamline the process for siting and building wind turbine farms and marine LNG terminals.
  • Eliminate all the bottlenecks to the continued development and deployment in the U.S. of nuclear power.
  • Eliminate all the bottlenecks to the continued development and deployment in the U.S. of the exploration, development, and distribution of natural gas.
  • Provide financial and regulatory support for updating and improving the electrical power grid distribution system in the U.S.
  • Tighten car-fuel economy standards and eliminate the exceptions to these standards.
  • Provide long term support for research, development and the start of a commercial leasing program on federal lands to hasten the development of oil shale reserves in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Provide meaningful financial incentives for energy conservation and enforce penalties for failure to conserve energy.
  • Increase the use of "clean" coal (gasification, removal of pollutants, etc.).
  • Computerize and coordinate traffic signals throughout the nation.
  • Encourage the development and production of lighter-weight but safe vehicles.
  • Provide incentives for the increased use of hybrid and/or alternate fuel burning vehicles (ethanol, propane, etc.).
  • Require that all non-essential illumination at night in buildings, on advertising signs, etc. be eliminated.
  • Subsidize mass transit and encourage its use in place of automobiles where appropriate.
  • Encourage as large a segment of U.S. businesses, schools and public agencies as possible to work four 10-hour days instead of the current five 8-hour days.
  • Expedite the permitting and construction of the Keystone Canada-to-Gulf of Mexico oil pipe line.
  • Discourage government attempts to micromanage the energy market and pick winners and losers. We need to let the free market do that.
     President Obama’s behavior with respect to America’s energy policy is that of saying one thing and doing something very different. He claims to be in favor of a policy that would incorporate “all-of-the-above.” BUT, His words and his actions during his term in office simply do not match! For instance, let’s look at what he has said about the Keystone XL pipeline versus what he has done.

     In March of 2012, as the 2012 presidential elections draw near and “as part of a roadshow for his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, President Obama {visited} Cushing, Okla., home to the world’s biggest oil storage complex. There he {toured} a yard where TransCanada is storing pipes to be used in building the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. The line will stretch from Cushing down to refineries on the Texas gulf coast.
     “It {was} a strange and remarkable visit considering that Obama in January denied a permit for the northern section of the pipeline that would have crossed the Canadian border. The strangeness wasn’t lost on … the chief executive of Continental Resources {who said} . . .
     “’It’s so hypocritical and so ironic after everything he’s tried to do against the industry,’ .... ‘He’s trying to take credit for all the gains we’ve made against the backdrop of the biggest oil storage complex in the world.’
     “ the president couldn’t be taking credit for this stretch of the Keystone XL, could he? After all, he must know full well that TransCanada got approvals to build the southern stretch months ago, and that pipelines that stay within U.S. borders don’t need presidential approval anyway . . .
     “Isn’t it more likely that the president is going to Cushing (as well as another stop to an oilfield in New Mexico) to bash oil? After all, it was just a couple weeks ago at a campaign stop in North Carolina that Obama dismissed oil as ‘the fuel of the past. . . .
     “Maybe he wants to take credit for the mammoth gains in domestic oil and gas production in the past three years? No, that couldn’t be the case either. The president knows full well that he had nothing to do with the development of oil and gas from shale reservoirs in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and North Dakota. In fact, it’s clear as day that the president thinks oil and gas companies should be drilling less, not more. Why else would he have said in his radio address {in early March} that Congress should move to cut billions in oil and gas tax breaks.” (Ref. 5.)

     “In spite of Obama’s opposition to big oil and in spite of his dragging feet on oil exploration and drilling and in spite of his January denial of a permit for the northern section of the Keystone pipeline, the oil-and-gas boom states of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, and North Dakota, as of early April 2012, ‘have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and where there are thousands of jobs available working on the Bakken shale oil field.’ The Bakken shale oil field production has grown from a trickle a decade ago to surpass 500,000 barrels per day in 2012 in spite of the Obama administration. ‘Last month North Dakota surpassed California as the state with the third-most oil production.’ It’s expected to pass Alaska later in 2012. Thanks to fracking, domestic oil production is up 20% since 2008 to 5.8 million bpd – no thanks to the federal government and no thanks to President Obama.
     “We know the Obama administration doesn’t like oil drilling in the Bakken because last year the {administration’s} Department of Justice brought a criminal indictment against … Continental Resources (and other oil companies) over the death of a handful of migratory birds that apparently died in a wastewater pit. Never mind that an estimated 100 million birds die each year from flying into windows. (A judge threw the case out.) . . .
     “The EPA has been trying out various ways of asserting its limited authority under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The Bureau of Land Management wants to increase fees and royalty rates charged to companies drilling on public lands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has delayed a long-planned lease auction of forestland in Ohio, ostensibly to study fracking. And … after triggering outrage from farmers, the U.S.D.A. retracted its plan to force anyone with a mortgage guaranteed by the agency to seek an onerous federal environmental review before leasing their lands to oil and gas drillers. ‘It’s schizophrenic,’ says … a former EPA administrator now advising drillers on fracking regulations. . . . The aborted U.S.D.A. plan would have required anyone who wanted to lease their land for drilling to first seek a National Environmental Policy Act review, which can take years.” (Ref. 5.)

     “While he was in Oklahoma, President Obama {took} credit for the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline . . . The only problem is ... the southern leg of the pipeline didn't need the President's approval. It was already in the works.
     “Here's another inconvenient truth the President avoided: his administration is continuing to hold up construction on the northern leg of that pipeline -- a project that would have created thousands of jobs and over a billion dollars in private investment. This from a President who says his number one focus is jobs.” President Obama says that he is holding up approval of the northern part of the pipeline because it “requires more environmental study as it passes through Nebraska.” But there have already been years of environmental study conducted – how much study is needed?
     “Finally, President Obama made the outrageous claim that his administration is responsible for the national increase in domestic drilling. . . . Well, here's the truth: drilling is increasing in the United States ... on privately owned land. . . . On public land, which President Obama is responsible for, drilling is rapidly decreasing. In fact, leases issued by the Bureau of Land Management are now less than half of what they were under former President Bill Clinton.
     “And because of the severe limitations the President has put on drilling, especially offshore drilling, that number will continue to fall.
     “The bottom line is this administration is taking credit for American energy production while it works to aggressively undermine it.” [Emphsis mine] (Ref. 2.)
     “If President Obama thinks oil and gas development is something to encourage, then back in 2008 he wouldn’t have pledged to levy a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies of more than $15 billion a year. That tax hasn’t materialized, but the rhetoric remains. In his radio address {in March of 2012}, the president said that Congress should move to cut billions in oil and gas ‘loopholes.’” (Ref. 5.)

     “The southern stretch of the Keystone XL will be instrumental in opening up the bottleneck that has prevented Bakken oil from getting to market. Bakken producers have had to rely on tanker trucks and trains . . . to get crude to market.” (Ref. 5.) Today, trains roll from Canada to the Gulf to fill the void left by the failed Keystone Pipeline. Canadian Pacific Railways trains carrying millions of barrels of oil to Gulf refineries are moving full steam ahead through the Obama administration's block of the Keystone Pipeline. The amount of oil carried has surged 2,500 percent since 2009, to 8.5 million barrels per year from just 325,000. The company expects to move 45 million barrels per year within the decade.

     “The Canadian Pacific also carries thousands of barrels per day to the Gulf from North Dakota's booming Bakken Formation oil fields. It’s estimated that shipping by rail instead of pipeline adds anywhere from $5 to $10 to the price of a barrel of oil, not to mention the high-capacity 24-7 flow which a pipeline would afford. In addition to lowering the price of a barrel of oil, the pipeline would also provide jobs. TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, has estimated it would generate 130,000 jobs. Also, no matter where they are laid, pipelines are a far safer way of moving crude than by truck or train.
     “As the 2012 presidential election drew nearer, President Obama rushed to recast his image into that of the pro-energy candidate. The President {was quickly called} out for changing positions on energy in his attempt to get re-elected.
     “For instance, … As president, Obama delayed the development of our oil and coal and natural gas. Now, as candidate Obama, he says he favors an energy policy that adopts an all-of-the-above approach. . . .
     “Yes, Obama . . . says he's in favor of an all-of-the-above energy policy, but that hasn't slowed him down in his pursuit of his very-few-of-the-above policy.
     “Back in 2008, then-Sen. Obama explained that under his energy plan, electricity prices would ‘necessarily skyrocket.’
     “The explosion in costs wouldn't be a bug [in] his plan . . . , but a feature. The idea under so-called cap-and-trade is that if you tax fossil fuels, you will, over time, reduce the use of fossil fuels. It's really basic economics. (Ref. 6.)

     President Obama and the Washington Democrats seem to view American-made energy as a hazardous waste rather than a resource. They have pushed a “cap and trade” plan that significantly raises taxes on energy producers which would discourage energy production and drive up fuel and utility prices for American families while destroying thousands of jobs.

     “[Fortunately], Republicans -- and a lot of Democrats -- successfully prevented cap-and-trade from ever becoming law.
     “Absent cap-and-trade, [the President’s supporters] claim he is pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy. Coal! Oil! Natural gas! Solar! Wind! And, of course, algae, algae, algae! We're doing it all, Obama says. . . .
     “Except that's simply not true. It's not remotely true. A new rule from the Obama administration's EPA will, according to an Associated Press analysis, force 32 mostly coal-fired power plants to shut down and threatens to close 36 others. Moreover, the new ‘blackout’ rule will effectively prevent the creation of any new coal-fired plants in America unless they adopt new technologies that will make it unprofitable to burn coal at all. . . .
     “. . . you can't really say you're pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy, or deny that you want energy prices to go up, and declare war on coal at the same time. . . .
     “. . . What about oil? The president killed the Keystone XL pipeline. After the BP oil spill, his administration overruled its own panel of experts to implement a moratorium on offshore drilling (while suggesting it was the experts' idea). Obama wants to revoke "subsidies" for oil companies, which are in fact the same tax write-offs that any business gets [Emphasis mine]. He takes credit for the increase in oil drilling on U.S. soil but leaves out that drilling on federal and American Indian lands has gone down under his administration. He also forgets to mention that he opposes drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast, the Florida coast, the full Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or in the Rockies.
     “When those resources aren't exploited, oil rigs don't sit and rust, they go to other countries (often ones with fewer environmental safeguards) to find oil elsewhere -- oil we will then buy.
     “{It} is right to suggest that Obama is saying things he doesn't believe in order to get re-elected. But, at least on energy, he's not taking a new position. When you're the incumbent president, you can say that your position is whatever you want. But the truth of the matter isn't determined by what you say, but by what you do. And judged against what he is doing, Obama's all-of-the-above strategy isn't a policy change, it's just a lie. [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 6.)

     “The energy crisis we are facing today isn't a lack of energy resources; it's a lack of leadership. That starts at the top, with our President. . . . The American people deserve an energy policy that creates a stronger economy, more jobs and opportunity, and the security that comes with American Energy Independence. “ (Ref. 2.)

     In reality, no fossil fuel will ever be acceptable as a source of energy to rabid environmentalists. The president says that America has only 2% of the world's reserves, so he asks, why drill? Then he says that drilling is not the path to lower gasoline prices or to American energy independence. But the 2% he talks about counts only the reserves from wells that are currently pumping. Using today's technology, America has 1.4 trillion barrels of recoverable oil, according to the Institute for Energy Research which with, today’s extraction technology, is enough to meet all the U.S. energy needs for the next 200 years - without imports from unfriendly countries and regimes. Of course, it is of no use if we are not allowed to drill for it.

  1. Energy crisis only joke to Obama, Mackubin Thomas Owens, Boston Herald, Page 21, 20 March 2012.
  2. GOP faults Obama for 'energy crisis', David Jackson, USA TODAY , 7 April 2012.
  3. Know-Nothing Senator, Steve Forbes, Forbes Magazine, Page 27, 26 March 2012.
  4. Aaronsohn's Maps, Patrica Goldstone, Harcourt, Inc., First edition, Page. 59, 2007.
  5. Obama's Upcoming Visit To Keystone Pipeline Site: 'So Hypocritical And So Ironic', Christopher Helman, Forbes; obamas-upcoming-visit-to-keystone-pipeline-site-so-hypocritical-and-so-ironic/, 19 March 2012, Updated 21 March 2012. {Accessed 4 April 2012}
  6. Obama energy policy: very few of the above, Jonah Goldberg, Chicago Tribune, 6 April 2012.

  12 April 2012 {Article 121; Politics_19}    
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