President Obama certainly knows how to talk a good game when it comes to energy policy; to the low-information layman, “all of the above” sounds like a superficially excellent plan. Work on green energy development, but keep the traditional fuel production comin’ — it’s the best of both worlds, right? Except that that’s not what the Obama administration has done at all. While the feds have poured billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars into picking economic winners and losers in the clean-energy field, Obama’s EPA/Energy/Interior team have waged a regulatory war on the coal industry and only allowed for relatively scant permitting for drilling projects.
Obama & Co. are big fans of taking credit for the increase in oil production that’s taking place on the domestic scene right now, but the credit is actually due to permits issued under President Bush (one of the few things he’s unwilling to credit to the “previous administration,” heh) and increased production on private and state lands. As Daniel Kish detailed in USNews yesterday, the Energy Information Administration recently released its Annual Energy Review 2011, and it demonstrates just how much Obama’s policy isn’t so much “all of the above” as “nothing from below”:
In reality, data shows that oil and gas production is actually falling on federal lands. Offshore oil production was the lowest since 2008, and natural gas production on federal lands was the lowest since 2003. Coal production on federal lands has fallen as well. Coal production was the lowest since 2006. Energy Information Administration also reports that 2011 had the highest average price for gasoline in U.S. history, and 2009-2011 has seen the highest average real electricity prices since the early 1990s.
What the record shows is that energy production is happening in spite of the president’s polices, not because of them. Instead, the federal government’s policy has been to restrict access to the 2.46 billion acres of onshore and offshore energy lands—lands that hold the greatest untapped resource potential—thereby denying their use to the people who own these resources.
While it is unfair to suggest than any president can control the global demand that’s leading to rising gasoline prices, the president could at least mitigate them by signaling to speculators that a greater supply is on the way. What’s more, getting in on a larger market share of these rising oil prices and taking advantage of the job creation, economic growth, and government revenue that would come with tapping into our wildly abundant natural resources means that rising gasoline prices wouldn’t have quite such a devastating impact.
As it is, the Obama administration’s drilling restrictions and regulatory warfare mean that we’re in for those “necessarily skyrocketing” energy prices, and if he wins a second term, I suspect that we’ll see him start really pushing for a national renewable portfolio standard — i.e., requiring energy supply companies to use a specified supply from renewable sources, despite the expense — which is definitely more bad news bears for our economy.