by Marita Noon
A pundit gushed over President Obama’s busy-ness since pushing through historic healthcare legislation. After enumerating accomplishments, she closed, "Frankly, I worry about his health."
Obama has been busy. Trying to keep up with just his energy-related activities makes my head spin. There is no way the average person could follow all the plans, proposals, bills, or executive orders.
While the concern expressed was for Obama’s health, my concern is for the health of energy in America—and ultimately for America itself.
Here are three recent news items, some of the busy-ness, that worry me about America’s energy health.
On March 31, Obama’s offshore announcement was big news. While it made for a good story, it will have no impact for years, does not open up any new drilling sites, and actually puts more areas off-limits. To really increase domestic energy production and minimize the transfer of American dollars to unfriendly countries, he could use that executive order pen to open up areas of known reserves where accessing the resource is either prohibited or severely restricted and a trained workforce and onshore infrastructure exists. Forbes summed it up this way, "Though the plan added acreage for possible leasing, some choice sites there were yanked. Drillers still have to wait for environmental studies before a lease sale may be held. Even then they’d need to do seismic surveys and get federal air permits before touching drill bit to earth. Expect environmentalists’ lawsuits, too."
While the offshore announcement got lots of attention, this slipped under the radar. In late January, it was leaked that the White House’s plans to create additional national monuments. The list contains 14 possible locations totaling more than 13 million acres. The sites "may be good candidates for National Monument designation and the Antiquities Act." Many of them--such as Otero Mesa in southeastern New Mexico—have known energy resources.
March 18, Governor Richardson sent Obama a letter in support of "protected" status. An environmental supporter waxed eloquent over the potential of the "wild and beautiful grassland," saying, "It has become a tourism destination," and "It will create a place that more people will take an extra day to visit." Additionally, it "will allow for sustainable long-term jobs."
While most of us support job-creation in this economy, expecting tourists to go to the vast empty spaces of Otero Mesa is not the way to do it—especially when making Otero Mesa a National Monument will eliminate the possibility of extracting the natural gas reserves. The average tourism job pays about 45K a year. Oil-service workers: 75K.
On April 16th, the White House sponsored the "White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors" with the goal of bringing "together leaders from communities across the country that are working to protect their outdoor spaces." While this may be a laudable concept, it hardly seems like a priority when Americans are begging the administration to focus on jobs!
Next, Cap and Trade—a tax on energy—is back. As New York’s Nassau County Executive found out, Americans do not want more energy taxes. Thomas Suozzi was a rising political star. A well-funded incumbent, Souzzi was thrown out by an unknown, under-funded, upstart—all over energy taxes. Reports stated, "Disenchanted voters were frustrated by a new Home Energy Tax."
Cap and Trade will take a great deal of political maneuvering to pass. "Partisanship" will likely blame Republicans for the bill’s struggle, but in fact when a bill’s good, it often passes overwhelmingly. The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act passed the House in February on a vote of 422 to 5. The Veteran Retraining Act passed last November: 356-0. Yet after months of discussion, debate, and public dialog, Senators still doubt whether or not they have enough votes to pass cap and trade. House members who voted for it last July fear losing their seat over their vote.
Despite the lack of popularity, regardless of the evidence putting the foundation of the cap and trade in question, a so-called compromise bill is being introduced with supporters expecting passage in June or July.
Yes, Obama’s been busy. As a result, frankly, I’m worried about America’s energy health. The United States has built a $14 trillion-per-year economy that’s based almost entirely on cheap energy. Now, at a time when we need jobs and cheap energy there is a head-spinning amount of busy-ness aimed at changing the energy that’s made America great!
Marita Noon is the executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), a nonprofit organization that operates from the platform of "Energy Makes America Great" and supports all domestic energy development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.responsiblenergy.org.