- - Thursday, November 26, 2015


When the Obama administration moved to embrace offshore energy exploration in Alaska earlier this year, skeptics raised a leery eyebrow. Could an administration so hostile to fossil fuels actually change its stripes?

Nope. Not at all. In October, the Obama administration canceled two scheduled offshore lease sales in Alaska. Officials also declined requests to renew drilling rights set to expire soon. Together, these moves mean the end of Arctic energy exploration.

The reversal is yet another example of the Obama administration’s relentless energy obstructionism.

Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell talked up a “balanced proposal” that would purportedly allow access to nearly 80 percent of Alaska’s untapped energy supply. “The safe and responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources is a key part of the president’s efforts to support American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Ms. Jewell proclaimed.

Excellent points. Abundant domestic supplies of oil and gas have created jobs, cut gas and electricity prices, and strengthened a limping manufacturing sector.

Yet the Obama administration has done everything it can to block energy development. Lease sales have dropped sharply since 2009. While energy production on private lands has surged 61 percent over the past five years, production on federal lands has actually declined by 6 percent. Such statistics speak volumes about the administration’s priorities.

The White House’s explanation for its October reversal was positively Orwellian in its duplicity. Ms. Jewell cited Royal Shell Dutch’s decision to end a $7 billion Arctic campaign as a key example of declining private-sector interest in oil and gas exploration in Alaska.

She failed to mention, however, that a key reason Shell canceled its program was “the challenging and unpredictable regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.” In Obamaspeak, once you have obstructed a company so comprehensively that it gives up, you then cite its lack of interest as a justification for more obstruction.

Anyway, why start caring about lost jobs now? In November, after all, the president hammered the final nail in the coffin of the Keystone XL pipeline, though it would have been a shovel-ready, $7 billion investment in American energy infrastructure. This decision cost American workers more than 40,000 jobs.

According the House Committee on Natural Resources, the White House stymied oil and gas development, cost jobs or drove up energy prices at least 77 times during the first five years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Highlights include axing more than 100 energy leases in Montana and Utah, forbidding oil exploration on more than a million acres of public land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and imposing onerous restrictions and regulations on fracking on federal or Indian properties.

All that, we must remember, took place before Mr. Obama decided to make climate change his hobby horse in the dwindling days of his presidency. When Congress declined to pass sweeping laws in the name of global warming, he decided to act unilaterally, reordering the energy economy through executive action and bureaucratic fiat.

Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has established new ozone regulations so strict that even national parks can’t meet them. Meanwhile, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan forces states to make dramatic cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions that will inevitably penalize utilities, manufacturers and households that rely on oil and gas.

Both policies are among the costliest in history.

While Mr. Obama has hindered the energy industry at every opportunity, he’s been happy to take credit for its successes.

Indeed, during his 2015 State of the Union address, the president cheerfully took credit for the drop in gas prices and America’s decreased reliance on foreign oil and gas.

The Obama administration’s energy obstructionism should be a central issue in the upcoming elections. The next few years will set the course for America’s long-term energy future. With hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs on the line, Americans should have no trouble rejecting the radical anti-energy policies of the previous seven years.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.

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