- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2012

Newton’s law says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Obama’s law says for every innovation, there is an equal and opposite regulation. Despite President Obama’s assurance he is doing everything he can to solve the nation’s energy woes, his minions are busily grinding out fresh regulations to ensure only unaffordable power options have a chance at success.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday finalized 588 pages of new restrictions on the production of natural gas and oil that take primary aim at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a drilling technique that releases trapped natural gas from underground shale. Gas producers will be required to install equipment on about 13,000 new natural gas wells and around 1,200 old ones to prevent released gas from escaping into the atmosphere, where the agency says it contributes to “greenhouse” gases. Humans and animals release the same vilified gases merely by being alive.

House Republicans say the added restrictions belie Mr. Obama’s purported all-of-the-above energy policy. “American energy production on state and private lands remains a bright spot in our economy, but EPA’s layers of red tape threaten to stifle job creation and industry growth, especially for small businesses,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton.

Fracking has led to an exponential growth in gas production, driving prices below $2 per million British thermal units, the lowest level in 10 years. That’s good news for American consumers but bad news for Mr. Obama’s unrealistic “green” energy initiatives. Already reliant on generous federal subsidies to survive, intermittent energy sources such as windmills and solar panels have been unable to compete on an equal footing with inexpensive alternatives such as natural gas. Regulatory compliance costs will be added into gas prices - a welcome development for struggling “eco-friendly” competitors but not for consumers, who will be forced to shell out extra dollars.

The president has been all-in for renewables, backing solar manufacturers such as Solyndra, which collapsed loudly last summer after burning through $535 million in taxpayer-provided subsidies. Since then, prospects for sun power have remained dim. Last week, First Solar, which pocketed a $1.46 billion loan from the Energy Department, announced it would lay off 2,000 employees.

Additional regulatory burdens may further raise the pressure on natural gas costs. The EPA is investigating a charge that fracking contaminated a water well in Wyoming, prompting anti-progress activists in Pennsylvania and New York to protest the practice on the grounds that it could endanger local water tables. In Ohio, geologists claim fracking is causing small earthquakes. Each scare story becomes the basis for new rules and higher costs.

The message from the marketplace is that the trendy, feel-good “green” power sources don’t sell. The White House response is to generate restrictions ensuring natural gas and other affordable fossil fuels don’t, either. Though Newton’s law can’t be changed, Americans fed up with Obama’s law will have a chance to repeal it in November.

The Washington Times

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