Published July 19, 2010
By allowing the U.S. Interior Department to issue its third offshore drilling moratorium since April’s oil spill in the Gulf, President Obama is demonstrating his unrelenting determination to rid America of fossil fuels. Whether the explanation is climate change, reducing our dependency on foreign oil or drilling safety, the answer is the same: cut back on our use of oil, natural gas and coal.
The president’s disdain for fossil fuels can be traced back to the 2008 presidential campaign, when candidate Obama told the world that, under his cap-and-trade proposal, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Unfortunately, he meant what he said.
Obama’s resolve to decrease these reliable and affordable forms of energy was also apparent by his giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the green light to regulate fossil fuel emissions under the Clean Air Act. EPA’s power grab would give the agency effective control over the entire U.S. economy.
Unable thus far to get Congress to enact cap-and-trade legislation, Obama will let EPA do his dirty work for him. And he’ll throw in some deepwater drilling moratoriums in the Gulf of Mexico lest anyone miss the point.
Obama’s only blemish in his anti-fossil fuel record came last March when he lifted a long-standing moratorium on offshore oil drilling along the East Coast, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
Although this decision outraged some environmentalists, the move appeared to be a concession to generate support from moderate Senators to vote for a cap-and-trade bill. As we observed with Obamacare, the president will make compromises in order to pass sweeping legislation on major policy areas.
Furthermore, Obama's decision was not as pro-drilling as popularly supposed, as it put millions acres of the OCS off-limits to drilling that had been open to it until then, cancelled five major lease sales in Alaska and delayed a 2.9 million-acre lease sale off the coast of Virginia until at least 2012.
With this as a backdrop, it’s not surprising to see Obama trying to use the BP disaster as an opportunity to pass cap-and-trade legislation and promote his green economy dream. The adage “you don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste” is alive and well in the White House, even though this strategy seems to be failing the president.
In fact, just this past week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised “to bring a sweeping energy and climate bill to the floor as early as the week of July 26, including a controversial cap on emissions from power plants.”
The president’s response to the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is out of step with public sentiment, and, together with the weak economy, could cost his party dearly in November’s midterm elections.
According to a Rasmussen poll, seventy-nine percent of voters in Louisiana support offshore oil drilling and seventy-two percent want to continue deepwater drilling.
Support for drilling is not restricted to Louisiana which is dependent on the oil industry for jobs.
Rasmussen also found that “nationally, sixty percent of voters support offshore oil drilling. Forty-nine percent of Americans favor continued deepwater drilling, while thirty-one percent are opposed.”
Most important for Obama, “Forty-seven percent rate the president’s handling of the Gulf oil leak as poor.”
Rasmussen’s Presidential Tracking Poll released on July 14 found “twenty-four percent of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president while forty-two percent Strongly Disapprove…”
What’s more, an ABC News/Washington Post poll released July 15 found that by 60 to 38 percent, residents in the most affected counties along the Gulf opposed the Obama administration’s six-month deepwater drilling moratorium.
A whopping 72 percent of those residents view the federal government’s response to the disaster negative, while six in ten gave their state and local governments good marks for their response.
With his popularity further damaged after he force-fed the American people a health care bill most of them couldn’t stomach, Obama would certainly have welcomed popular support for his energy policy.
But people really don’t want to see their electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket,” and they are turning their backs on his energy schemes.
Obama’s progressive beliefs, rooted in the conviction that government is the answer to all that ails us, might have contributed to his misreading the political opportunities he thought were embedded in the BP environmental disaster.
From a left-wing perspective, it would be simple to assume that the public, after seeing the environmental destruction, would demand a ban on offshore drilling and openly support his green energy policy. After all, following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the public lost its appetite for nuclear power.
Yet the public is viewing this crisis in its proper perspective which seems to acknowledge the significance that fossil fuels play in our economy.
The National Ocean Industries Association – a trade organization that represents offshore oil drillers – said, “each idled deepwater drilling rig would result in a loss of approximately 1,400 direct and indirect jobs…”
Viewing the world through a progressive lens appears to have blinded Obama to the priorities and concerns of Americans who are very worried about job creation and reckless government spending.
In response to the uncertainty surrounding the future of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Diamond Offshore – an offshore drilling company – said one of its rigs was going to be moved to waters off Egypt. Going with the rig, with many more to follow, are many well-paying jobs.
Job losses and increased dependence on foreign sources of oil are just the first causalities from Obama’s war on fossil fuels.
Tom Borelli, Ph.D., is director of the Free Enterprise Project.
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