- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2012


No one should argue that President Obama underreaches. When the commander in chief says, “not in my backyard,” he doesn’t mean the South Lawn behind the White House but from sea to shining sea.

The O Force has just given the thumbs down to a proposal to open new uranium mines on 1 million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. Two years ago, Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar placed a temporary halt on new uranium-mine claims in the scenic region in order to study the impact of mining operations on the Colorado River’s watershed. On Jan. 9, Mr. Salazar announced the freeze had morphed into a 20-year moratorium, winning plaudits from progress-hating leftists. The interior secretary was apparently unconvinced by a study from the Arizona Geological Survey that calculated an accidental dumping of a truckload of uranium ore into the river would raise the concentration of the mineral in the river water by a mere one-half of 1 percent.

NIMBY (not in my backyard) may be a natural citizen reaction against unwanted neighborhood development, but Uncle Sam has appropriated the concept to fence off large swaths of America. Millions visit the Grand Canyon each year, but the surrounding territory is desolate drive-through country, a backyard for snakes and lizards.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who has a clearer view of what’s happening than bureaucrats 2,300 miles away in Washington, denounced the moratorium as harmful to the state’s economy. Existing uranium mines will be allowed to continue operations, but the ban dashes hopes for hundreds of new high-wage jobs and an estimated $10 billion in economic activity. The United States possesses the world’s fourth-largest uranium reserves spread over 21 states, but we unnecessarily import 92 percent of our supply.

The Obama administration’s latest move to block access to sources of conventional energy should surprise no one. Since taking office more than three years ago, Mr. Obama has misused the power of the presidency to wage a relentless campaign against affordable commodities like petroleum and coal. His liberal political base despises nuclear power in particular, associating it with American military might, and prefers costly, inefficient and pointless windmills and solar panels.

Following the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010, Mr. Obama imposed a virtual ban on coastal drilling while encouraging petroleum production in Brazil. In December, he put off an opportunity to increase the flow of oil to U.S. markets by delaying approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver oil from western Canada to the Gulf coast. Miffed, the House of Representatives included in its recent payroll tax-cut deal a provision requiring the president to rule on the pipeline’s future by Feb. 21. However, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn’t waiting around - he’s already trying to sell the oil to China.

Beyond its use in nuclear power and atomic weapons, uranium is a valuable energy asset with applications in medical devices and scientific instruments. Even if some in Washington view this precious commodity with fear and loathing, states fortunate to possess it ought to be free to determine its responsible use in their own backyards.

The Washington Times

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