- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The numbers click upward rapidly at the pump. Thats why gasoline prices are now competing with missing jobs and the president’s limping “Obamacare” reform as an issue for the 2012 presidential campaign. But Mr. Obama has evidently decided that most of the people can be fooled most of the time on what the government can do about the problem.

Instead of pivoting away from his disastrous energy policies, the president called an Ides of March press conference to boast of booming domestic crude production. In fact, from 10 million barrels a day, U.S. production has fallen to 7 million barrels and is heading toward 6 million.

With worldwide energy consumption rising despite the still-bleeding wounds of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, supply has maxed out. Our friends the Saudis promise more production, but nobody has seen it yet. (Payback for Mr. Obama ignoring their advice on Hosni Mubarak and Bahrain?) Anyway, increase output would bring its own quality and delivery complications.

Truth be told, most experts privately admit the energy muddle defies immediate solution.

True, we are nowhere near “petroleum peak” — that long-prophesied moment when unstoppable infinite energy demand meets immovable finite fossil-fuel supply. Recent deepwater drilling has turned up humongous new sources of fuel. A good example is Brazils South Atlantic finds, which Mr. Obama proudly acknowledged helping to finance during his recent visit. Then theres vast deposits of North American shale.

But government regulation — which Mr. Obama intensified after the BP Gulf spill — has throttled U.S. production. (Curiously, China will soon be pumping oil from fields off Castros Cuba, near Florida’s beaches!) In their defense, the Obama-ites did inherit some restrictions put in place by local environmentalistas.

Cheap energy has been a hallmark of Americas incredible record of job creation for over a century. But Mr. Obamas self-righteous ideologues want this reversed, citing what they say is mankind’s key role in global warming. Its never easy to get into others minds, certainly not the elite dominating this administration. But their “green” religion envisages an early end to fossil fuels, vast government subsidies to speed their demise, and higher prices — including more taxes — to help push us toward expensive, unproven alternatives.

High priest of this manmade global warming gospel is John Podesta, who was chief of staff under President Clinton. Mr. Podesta’s Center for American Progress provides a hallelujah chorus for Mr. Obama’s energy secretary, Steven Chu. Mr. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, has a messianic solution to the nation’s energy woes: growing and trading tropical glucose as a petroleum substitute. It’s the very stuff of science — science fiction, that is.

Nor do these fanatics tell us where the money to preserve the environment will come from, if not from increasing energy-market efficiencies. Nowhere in this crew is there anyone who ever produced a single Btu, except when gassing before captive audiences. And as in the Gulf disaster, they are proving deaf to pragmatic arguments, as deaf as the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer over the cacophony of Cairo’s traffic.

Honest oil industry people admit that not much can be done immediately to ease the crisis, given the growing instability in the Middle East, which supplies 40 percent of the world’s production. Even the cutoff of Libyas production, just 2 percent of the global supply market, hits European refiners who in turn supply New England and Middle Atlantic pumps. Suspending ethanol mandates, which are catastrophically exacerbating a world food crisis at taxpayers’ expense, would for now only make things worse by reducing volume.

Were the president to make another of his frequent policy flip-flops — messy and inconclusive as they are — and pull out all the stops for domestic fossil-fuel and electricity production (a hundred plant proposals now sit on the shelf awaiting action), prices would not collapse. But jawboning could erode crude prices and create jobs in the process.

But Mr. Obama has chosen class warfare, so beloved of his left-wing base, over reconciliation with industry. With the help of naive populists — such as TV’s Bill OReilly — he will blame higher pump prices on the oil companies and their hunger for huge profits. That, his gurus figure, will be a political winner in November 2012 — if not at the gas pump.

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