One of them wanted to see Americans paying $8 a gallon for gasoline. Another tried to block access to domestic oil reserves that could one day exceed those in Saudi Arabia. Another thinks global warming is a dire crisis justifying a massive crackdown on energy -- decades after saying the same thing about global cooling. Yet another had a position in the one of the world’s top socialist organizations.
Meet the Obama administration’s energy team.
Forget everything you’ve heard about the president’s moderate picks on the economy, national security and other issues. When it comes to energy policy and related environmental concerns, this group is off-the-charts extreme. Too bad the issue will be a critical one over the next few years.
Consider Obama’s choice for energy secretary, Nobel prize-winning physicist Steven Chu. “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” The Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying last September. In most Western European nations, gas taxes alone come to around $4 a gallon and are designed to make the pump price so high that people are forced to drive a lot less. At the time of Chu’s comment, the “levels in Europe” were near $8 a gallon.
Chu has also said that electricity prices are “anomalously low,” though he neglected to indicate how much higher he wants them to go. Instead of a secretary of energy, it sounds like America is getting its first secretary against energy. Chu backed off such rhetoric after being nominated, but his true feelings seem obvious.
Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) is Obama’s choice to head the Department of the Interior, the agency that handles energy leasing on federal lands and most offshore areas. As a senator, Salazar has opposed much of this leasing, based on overblown environmental fears. It looks like “drill, baby, drill” isn’t going to survive to adulthood.
In addition to opposing domestic drilling for conventional oil, Salazar was also responsible for legislation blocking the development of oil shale. America has vast amounts of this oil-containing rock, mostly beneath federal lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The process of efficiently extracting this oil is still being improved; oil shale is a long-term project with uncertain prospects at this time. But if successful, it could provide literally hundreds of billions of barrels, exceeding the reserves in Saudi Arabia and providing enough oil to supply the United States for many decades.
As secretary of the interior, Salazar will have even more chances to stop cold any progress on oil shale, and with it our best hope for a dramatic increase in domestic oil production.
As with Chu, Obama’s choice for science adviser, John Holdren, has impressive academic credentials but some very strange energy and environmental policy views. Even Al Gore can’t match Holdren’s global warming gloom-and-doom rhetoric, including the claim that it could kill as many as 1 billion people by 2020. Holdren’s a veteran at making such alarming predictions, but back in the 1970s he worried more about whether man would survive the “threat of making the planet too cold.”
But whether it’s warming or cooling, Holdren has consistently advocated the same heavy-handed crackdowns on the economy and energy use, including the need for a “massive campaign ... to de-develop the United States.” Good thing he’s not in charge of the stimulus package.
Rob Bradley, chairman of the Institute for Energy Research, has compiled an amazing list of Holdren’s favorite policy prescriptions, including the “limitation of material consumption,” “redistribution of the wealth,” and even “movement toward some kind of world government.”
Apparently, Holdren isn’t alone on the world government stuff.
In the position of the president’s top assistant on energy and climate policy is former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner, whose picture and biography were, until quite recently, on the Web site of Socialist International. She was listed as a member of its Commission For a Sustainable World Society. The old joke that environmental activists are like watermelons -- green on the outside but red on the inside -- isn’t so funny anymore.
She’s not quite as opinionated as Holdren, but Browner does have a long record of placing environmental concerns, real or exaggerated, well above affordable energy and economic growth.
Conspicuously absent from the incoming energy policy team is any real understanding that high energy prices are a bad thing that hurts the American people. Instead of a pro-energy team, Obama has assembled an extreme green team.
Ben Lieberman is a senior policy analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.