Again, and again, we must return to energy, the mother's milk of the economy, where the Obama administration's hamfisted tactics are strangling the baby of recovery in the crib.
In his press conference last week, the president again singled out rebates to push U.S. fossil fuel production in his demand for tax increases for an economy already threatened by double-dip recession. The proposal only compounds the regulatory mischief, blocking oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico while Chinese and other foreign companies drill off Cuba almost within sight of Florida beaches, at a cost of 250,000 U.S. jobs.
The new regulations threaten West Texas fields that contribute 20 percent of U.S. new production in order to protect an obscure lizard. The White House dallies over a pipeline to bring Canadian oil-sands crude to Texas refineries. While Moscow pushes Arctic prospecting, Juneau can't get Washington to open up 14.7 million acres of state land with the critical Alaskan pipeline faltering from declining output.
Mr. Obama's token release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — into the international pool of crude oil rather than to help reduce U.S. pump prices — was one more assault in Mr. Obama's ideological war on fossil fuels. (Never mind that he ignored the reserve's national defense character; it was never meant as a price instrument or a political toy.)
All this is done under the rubric of protecting the environment. "Junk science," as many highly qualified skeptics believe, may underpin claims that fossil-fuels consumption decisively results in climate change. It will take decades to know, given our shallow data on shifts in climate through the ages.
But "junk economics" is all too evident in the administration's energy strategies. Granted, impediments to cheap energy were inherited from previous governments and imperfect markets. But Mr. Obama's drive for renewable sources mimics the Carter administration's abandoned "alternative-energy" skeletons still littering the landscape.
Mr. Obama's wind-power subsides are indeed producing jobs — for China and Spain — with transferred American companies technology. Chinese windmills and solar panels are exported to the U.S., often replacing American manufacture.
The vignette of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger entertaining Chinese high-speed rail construction proposals using federal stimulus funds — just before California all but went into bankruptcy — is a classic example of a certain mindset. High-salaried propagandists for tax-free non-government organizations promote helping the environment through advocacy of mass transit, citing China's example. They fail to note that deficit-ridden Chinese government railways — whose two top executives recently were arrested for stealing tens of millions of dollars — blackmailed European and U.S. companies for technology transfers in exchange for a phantom Chinese market.
And now Beijing attempts to export while its own projects operate with anemic passenger loads — at lower speeds because of faulty engineering. The misrepresentation is all too typical of limitless, mindless propaganda pumped out on a daily basis, for example on that other federally subsidized enterprise, National Public Radio, by the Obama cheering section.
In fact, a whole new era in fossil fuels is beginning. So-called "peak oil," the crisis posited when diminishing reserves supposedly would be swamped by rising consumption, has vanished. New vistas have developed worldwide with expanding deep-water drilling technology — a Norwegian $1 billion floating platform in deep water off Rio de Janeiro is a good example. New fields await discovery in our own Gulf of Mexico — the less-than-cataclysmic BP spill notwithstanding. Iraq, with the world's second largest reserves, many yet untapped, is recovering and returning to the market with 10 million barrels a day.
Even more spectacular, a new era for natural gas suddenly has emerged with new technology exploiting vast shale reserves lying deep below rock formations in a dozen countries, including the United States. (Ironically, China is investing billions of dollars into American companies to get at that technology.) Of course, there already has been a half-baked university "study" by enviromentalistas arguing that "fracking" — the process of getting at that gas — would poison ground drinking water. The study produces not a single instance, nor does it explain the risk when most of the shale deposits lie well below aquifers.
Politically correct spokesmen and the mainstream media promise black-magic energy solutions such as electric cars, ignoring both the fact that almost three-quarters of our electricity for recharging batteries is produced with coal and gas, and the enormous costs and problems of grid expansion required for a massive changeover.
This conjuror's trick has gone wrong; Mr. Obama is actually cutting the beautiful young lady in half as he cripples the energy sector.
• Sol Sanders, veteran foreign correspondent and analyst, writes weekly on the convergence of politics, business and economics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at http://yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com.
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