- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Huge increases in U.S. oil and gas production have put the nation on a path to energy independence, but some industry leaders fear their relationship with the Obama administration will deteriorate during the president’s second term.

“We’re all facing the same thing in this second term. This is a difficult administration as far as natural resource development,” said Tim Wigley, president of the Western Energy Alliance, a nonprofit association that represents more than 400 energy companies doing business in Western states.

Mr. Obama “has so much pressure on him from the environmental community … I think it’s going to be a difficult four years,” he told The Washington Times on Wednesday.

The White House’s energy policy, Mr. Wigley fears, will continue to favor renewable power sources such as wind and solar. Leaders of those sectors have said they view last month’s presidential election as vindication, a clear message from voters that they want the federal government to begin moving the nation off of fossil fuels and toward “green” power.

Mr. Wigley conceded that it’s hard to argue with that assessment, and that only adds to the uncertainty facing oil and gas manufacturers.

“I see it as a big victory for them,” he said. “They certainly got the attention of the administration in the first term.”

At the same time, Mr. Wigley and others cling to the hope that new projections for American energy independence could sway Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers to take full advantage of the nation’s fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency recently predicted that the U.S. is on track to become the world’s largest oil producer within a decade, and it expects North America to soon become a net oil exporter and eliminate the need for imports from countries such as Saudi Arabia.

The uptick in domestic energy production has largely been driven by the discovery of vast oil and gas deposits in places such as the Marcellus Shale, which lies under Pennsylvania, New York and other Eastern states, and the Bakken Shale, beneath North Dakota and surrounding areas.

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