- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Get ready to pay a lot more than $3 a gallon to fill up your car during peak driving periods this spring and summer. More pain at the pump is the inevitable result of the Obama administration’s carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with America’s energy woes.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week announced new leases for offshore oil and gas drilling, which will take effect in 2012. While news reports characterized the decision as a bold response to the nation’s energy needs, reality is quite to the contrary.

Within a month of taking office in 2009, Mr. Salazar froze drilling leases already approved by the outgoing George W. Bush administration. Then he imposed a six-month public comment period to precede his decision on whether to allow new drilling. When the comment period ended in September, Interior suppressed the results.

American Solutions, a plucky grass-roots organization founded to pressure Washington to break policy gridlock, filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain the public comment tally. Given that beleaguered drivers were shelling out more than $4 a gallon for gas in late 2008, their discovery was not surprising: The comments, totaling 530,000, favored drilling by a margin of 2 to 1. Even now, six months after the public comment period ended, Interior - apparently displeased with the results - still has not published the public reaction.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is predicting gas prices will spike soon to more than $3 a gallon, and some areas have already exceeded that price. Contrary to its posture of attentiveness toward America’s energy needs, the Obama administration actually has imposed a two-year delay on new drilling - from 2010 until 2012. The message to Americans looking for relief: We’ll get back to you - in two years.

The U.S. nuclear power industry has encountered a similar come-on. In July, Mr. Salazar announced a two-year “timeout” on uranium mining claims on nearly 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon in Arizona, citing concerns about uranium leaching into drinking water from existing mines. A preliminary U.S. Geological Survey report released Feb. 18 indicated that concerns over water quality may be unwarranted. It said 1,000 water samples taken from 428 sites showed dissolved uranium concentrations in areas both with and without mining were “generally similar.” Ninety-five percent of the tested sites contained uranium levels below the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum for drinking water.

Uranium production in the United States is already inadequate, supplying only 8 percent of the fuel needed for the nation’s current nuclear plants. The remainder is imported, with almost 50 percent coming from Russia. Mr. Salazar’s message to a fuel-deficient nuclear industry: Check back with us - in two years.

Likewise, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has terminated Nevada’s nearly completed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project, leaving the nation with no solution for long-term nuclear waste disposal. He has appointed a blue-ribbon commission to provide recommendations for nuclear waste disposal. The commission’s final report is due - in two years.

President Obama has touted the expansion of clean nuclear energy production and recently announced loan guarantees for two new nuclear power plants in Georgia. But his administration’s moves to restrict nuclear fuel on the front end and back end of energy production belie his purported enthusiasm for nuclear power.

Like the farmer who eggs on his hungry donkey with the carrot-and-stick trick, the president teases the U.S. energy industry with the prospect of new resources. The donkey plods futilely after the carrot; Americans wait for more abundant fuel and get the shaft.

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