What do Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico have in common? They make up the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Region 6. They also constitute the core of America's energy production, especially oil.
Thus, they needed to be taught a lesson. Who better for that than Alfredo J. Armendariz, the former EPA Region 6 administrator, who served as an expert witness for environmental groups before joining the EPA in November 2009?
Mr. Armendariz is no longer with the EPA. He resigned on April 30 for committing the sin of clarity. He was a little too honest in conveying the Obama administration's way of doing business.
In a videotaped speech he made in Dish, Texas, in May 2010, that was posted on the website of Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, he answered a question this way:
"I was in a meeting once, and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I'll go ahead and tell you what I said. It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere; they'd find the first five guys they saw, and they would crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people, who are, in this case, not compliant with the law ... and you make examples of them. ... So, that is our general philosophy."
Indeed, in slightly less colorful language, Steven Chu, who has since become energy secretary, told the Wall Street Journal in September 2008 that he hoped Americans would pay as much for a gallon of gas as Europeans do. At the time, gas was more than $8 a gallon in Europe. The Obama administration has been doing its manful best to get there, with a gallon rising from $1.78 in 2008 to around $4 a gallon now - halfway there.
Holding a few regulatory crucifixions would be a nifty way to discourage oil drilling and thereby jack up the price of gas even more. Then we all could be forced into Chevy Volts or rickshaws. But it could take a long time. Democrats have insisted that more drilling wouldn't help for at least 10 years. If that's so, it's kind of funny watching Mr. Obama pretend in his campaign speeches that his administration has increased the current supply of domestic oil. If it takes a decade to affect supply, well, you do the math.
Mr. Obama has, in fact, done everything possible to discourage more sources, including halting new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, stifling offshore drilling in Alaska, and stopping the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Meanwhile, billions of taxpayer dollars flow to solar- and wind-company owners, who gratefully donate to the president's re-election campaign before declaring bankruptcy.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson distanced herself from Mr. Armendariz's remarks, calling them "inflammatory but also wrong." This tells us that "inflammatory" stuff also can be true and right as rain. Remember this the next time some Obama spokesman or media hack calls Tea Party people "extremists" for expecting lawmakers to abide by the Constitution.
Ms. Jackson herself is no shrinking violet when it comes to power. Despite Congress' failure to enact "cap-and-trade" carbon-trading legislation, the EPA went ahead and began issuing regulations as if the law had passed. Because Mr. Obama threatened in 2008 to "bankrupt" any new coal-fired energy plants "because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted,"you could argue that Ms. Jackson is just being a loyal soldier, albeit a particularly eager one.
We could have seen this coming back when she was New Jersey's environmental protection commissioner. In 2007, Ms. Jackson yanked the tax exemption from the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association's seaside pavilion property in Neptune Township for not hosting two lesbian civil union ceremonies. The church said that to use its property to celebrate sin would violate its biblical beliefs regarding sexual morality. But two homosexual activist groups had written to Ms. Jackson on Sept. 6, 2007, requesting the denial, as did the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey in a separate letter.
Here's how the New York Times explained it: "Every three years since 1989, the association has applied for, and received, tax exemptions for its boardwalk, beach and the pavilion under the Green Acres Program, designed to encourage the use of privately owned lands for public recreation and conservation. This is the first time any part of its application has been turned down."
What's an environmental agency got to do with levying taxes on church property? Beats me, except that they do these sorts of things in New Jersey. If you're a Garden Stater who doesn't like it, you can move to Pennsylvania, where Keystone State environmental bureaucrats can abuse you in their own ingenious ways.
Ms. Jackson has now been loosed upon the whole nation, using her EPA platform to rail against fossil fuels, especially coal. Last year, she keynoted the Powershift.org conference, the radical environmental youth group that is pushing for a 5-million-strong Clean Energy Job Corps. Think of Mao's Red Guards dressed in Jolly Green Giant outfits, and you get the picture.
The point is that the green movement's expanding tentacles are empowering government at all levels. As Nancy Pelosi once said, "I'm trying to save the planet! I'm trying to save the planet!"
But who will save America from the "inflammatory but also wrong" environmental movement and its government enablers?
Mr. Armendariz is not the only bureaucrat who dreams of crucifying fossil fuel producers - he's just the one who got caught dreaming out loud.
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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