Tensions spiking in the Middle East.  The price of oil going through the roof.  An American administration refusing to open American resources for energy.  Does this sound familiar?  It does if you lived through the late 1970s, and Steve Forbes reminds us that the results were not pretty for the American economy.  In fact, Forbes writes today at Politico that Barack Obama has yet another similarity to Jimmy Carter:

You need to watch only a few minutes of cable news analysis to realize just how ludicrous our national energy policies have become. As escalating tensions and chaos unfold in Egypt, Libya and other Middle Eastern nations, one energy analyst suggested that if Libyan oil supplies were to fail, the United States would rely on Saudi Arabia for its oil needs. If that statement alone doesn’t put U.S. leaders on red alert, the looming national energy crisis may soon become reality.

The Obama administration is repeating the mistakes of President Jimmy Carter’s failed energy policies, which marred his term and stigmatized the 1970s. They are leading us straight into another national energy disaster. …

Unfortunately, this administration’s Department of the Interior, with the most anti-oil-and-gas record in U.S. history, is sabotaging any real chance of avoiding the pending energy crisis because of its continued hold on deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar heads before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, Americans — particularly the 9.2 million directly or indirectly working in the oil and gas industry — would be ill served if the question isn’t asked: Are the thousands, and counting, of out-of-work Americans in the Gulf region and beyond a worthwhile consequence of your department’s freeze?

Not to worry, says Obama’s new chief of staff William Daley.  Obama loves the private sector and American industry:

President Barack Obama is a pro-business president who “has always believed that America succeeds when business succeeds,” his chief of staff argues on the pages of a major business newspaper.

William Daley, a former JPMorgan Chase executive who was sometimes critical of Obama’s stance toward business before joining the White House in January, says that the president “has a deep, abiding commitment to doing what is necessary to strengthen our economy and make America more competitive,” he writes in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Financial Times.

Responding to a critique in the FT from George Buckley, the CEO of 3M, that Obama is “anti-business,” Daley pushes back with a hearty appeal to the community that has often been adversarial toward the Obama administration, stressing the importance of the role the president believes the federal government must play in reviving the U.S. economy. “As a government our responsibility is to lay the foundations for the private sector to thrive; indeed, that is at the heart of our strategy for growth,” Daley writes, defending the administration’s efforts to reform schools, better fund colleges and upgrade communications and transportation. These efforts, he said, help lay the “foundation” for the economy.

But as Forbes points out, the energy sector is where business support meets the acid test.  Without reliable, efficient, and reasonably-priced energy available, the economy will stagnate at best, and decline.  That’s the lesson of the Carter era.  It took Ronald Reagan to dismantle the bureaucratic obstacles erected to block exploration and exploitation and free enough energy production to fuel the great American economic expansion of the 1980s and beyond.

Has Obama learned that lesson?  Or is he just paying lip service to businessmen, as Jack Welch accused him of doing yesterday?  Forbes provides the answer:

After the moratorium was nominally lifted last fall, the blow dealt by Interior’s subsequent permit freeze has been devastating. Not a single deepwater drilling permit has been issued since last year’s tragic oil spill. Unfortunately, there’s no relief in sight, given Salazar’s recent admission that he has no intention of issuing any drilling leases this year.

By freezing U.S. energy assets in the Gulf and keeping 97 percent of our offshore oil and gas off limits, our government, willing or not, is fueling an energy crisis that could bring this nation to its knees. Continued inaction in the Gulf threatens to force us to import an extra 88 million barrels of oil per year by 2016, at a cost of $8 billion. …

The Energy Department estimates that U.S. energy needs are 17 times greater than they were 50 years ago. Yet U.S. output of domestic energy has fallen 40 percent over the same period.

Business cannot expand without energy abundance.  We need government to get out of the way of energy production at the very least, and preferably helping to promote American production.  Instead, while Obama talks about the need for business to invest in the US, his administration keeps finding ways to make it more expensive and more difficult to do so.  It’s a rerun from the 1970s — as welcome as a revival of the TV series Carter Country.