A number of writers, including me, have criticized the Obama administration for its “war on energy.” However, this charge is not really the correct one. President Obama is, in fact, waging a war on American consumers and workers. Energy — especially fossil fuels — is only a weapon. An early clue came when he appointed Steven Chu, who said he wanted to “boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” as his first secretary of energy. We should have known then that Mr. Obama was throwing the American consumer under the bus, albeit one more costly to operate.
In its quixotic pursuit of a carbon-dioxide mitigation policy, the administration has done everything it can to slow the production and transportation of fossil fuels. It has refused to lift its ban on offshore drilling in frontier areas, it has curbed production on federal lands, it has dithered on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and it has opposed the development of Canada’s huge oil sands. It is also well on its way to killing coal. The administration continues down this path even though the rest of the world recognizes the need for energy supplies and is increasing its own production, regardless of global warming/climate change concerns.
Rather than emphasizing economic growth and job creation, the Democratic Party, led by Mr. Obama, has sold its collective soul to rich environmentalists and rent-seeking crony capitalists such as Tom Steyer, whose investments in “green” energy projects cannot compete without policies that increase the price of fossil fuels on the one hand and massive taxpayer subsidies on the other.
This dynamic is at work in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would bring crude oil to U.S. refineries from Canadian oil sands. Despite six years of environmental-impact studies and the fact that there are already numerous pipelines in operation between the United States and Canada, approval has not been forthcoming from the Obama administration.
Keystone would be a boon to both U.S. economic health and security. The project would create thousands of well-paying jobs — 40,000 — according to a State Department review. It would aid in jump-starting the stalled U.S. economy by providing consumers with low-cost crude oil. However, the administration is willing to wage a relentless war on one of its “core” constituencies — workers — to gain the favor and the dollars of environmentalists and rich green crony capitalists.
Keystone is just one example of the Obama administration’s use of energy as a weapon in its war on workers and consumers. Its proposed regulations on carbon sources will destroy the domestic coal industry while raising the cost of electricity by an average of $17 billion per year between now and 2030, according to most estimates.
We can’t say that Mr. Obama didn’t warn us. In a January 2008 videotaped interview with The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, candidate Barack Obama said, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Coal-powered plants, you know, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”
Even when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, cap-and-trade legislation never passed, dying on the floor of the Senate without a vote in 2010. Despite holding a filibusterproof majority, Democrats from energy-rich states joined Republicans in killing what most understood to be an unpopular program that would hurt consumers, especially the poor, those who made their living in the transportation sector and utility ratepayers.
During the cap-and-trade debate, Mr. Obama, as is his wont when he doesn’t get his way, threatened to unleash the Environmental Protection Agency if Congress would not act. Failing to jawbone Congress, the president now seeks to achieve his goal by resorting to what is essentially a rule by decree.
On the one hand, this blatant attempt to achieve the goal the president could not achieve by law provides another example of the propensity of this most lawless of presidents to run roughshod over the Constitution, the separation of powers and the American form of republican government. On the other hand, the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon-dioxide-mitigating regulations will hurt the U.S. economy. Not only will the cost of energy for consumers rise, but also rising energy costs for manufacturers and other enterprises will place American firms at a competitive disadvantage, reducing investment, economic growth and employment. Indeed, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these regulations will kill more than 220,000 jobs each year.
The initial regulations on existing generating plants would impose a 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in emissions nationwide with some states facing even more draconian requirements. Radical environmentalists are aiming for at least an 80 percent reduction of all emissions by 2050.
Even if such extreme targets were to be achieved on the backs of American workers and consumers, the impact of U.S. reductions worldwide would be minuscule, since the biggest carbon-dioxide emitters are growing economies such as those of China and India, which have no desire to subordinate their economic growth to the whims of American environmentalists, rich liberals and clueless Hollywood celebrities. Would that our president put hardworking Americans ahead of that same rabble.
Mackubin Thomas Owens is editor of Orbis, a publication of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.