Obama pulls bait, switch on Atlantic offshore drilling

By Dan Kish - Guest columnist

President Obama just had a change of heart on offshore energy development.

Last year, the president put forward a blueprint to expand oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast. In March, he shelved the plan.

Environmentalists are celebrating. But it’s a loss for the country. President Obama has passed on an important opportunity to secure America’s energy future and create thousands of new jobs.

The president has a long history of siding with environmentalists over working Americans. While campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Obama stated proudly that, “under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Upon taking office, the president wasted little time in pursuing this goal. He tasked the Environmental Protection Agency with carrying out his agenda through executive fiat. The EPA developed the Clean Power Plan, a sweeping carbon dioxide reduction scheme. The plan promised to slash carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030.

By restricting the use of low-cost fossil fuels, and forcing the construction of expensive new generation, the EPA’s plan effectively mandates that Americans will pay more for energy. Thankfully, the Supreme Court struck down this scheme in February.

When the president isn’t championing the cause of high energy prices, he can be found ignoring the economic benefits of fossil-fuel development. In 2012, he argued that, “we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” He was wrong.

Thanks to the shale-energy boom of recent years, America has emerged as the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas. Crude oil production increased by 72 percent from 2009 to 2015.

As domestic production has soared, gasoline prices have fallen. Indeed, gas is expected to remain at about $2 a gallon for the rest of the year.

Clearly, President Obama was wrong about the relationship between oil development and energy prices. Nevertheless, he continues to block drilling projects.

For instance, the administration has erected new barriers to drilling on federal land. Applying for the relevant drilling permit now takes nearly 100 days longer than it did before the president took office.

Not surprisingly, between 2010 and 2014, drilling on federal lands fell by 10 percent. Natural gas development dropped by more than 30 percent.

And so, it came as some surprise, last January, when the administration proposed leasing a segment of the Atlantic coast for offshore drilling projects.

The administration’s decision was the first step toward tapping the 4.7 billion barrels of oil and 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas trapped beneath the Atlantic coast. Developing these resources would secure America’s energy independence while creating around 280,000 new jobs across the country in the coming decades.

One was tempted to believe that the president had finally placed the interests of real Americans above the demands of the green movement. This proved too much to hope for.

More than a year after releasing its initial Atlantic drilling plan, the administration reversed its position. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell defended this about-face, calling the new policy, “a balanced proposal that protects sensitive resources.”

By “sensitive resources,” one assumes she means the president’s allies in the green movement whose goal it seems is to make energy more expensive in order to limit Americans’ use of it. Once again, the administration has placed the extreme views of a radical few before the wealth and security of the nation as a whole. America could have a better future if they hadn’t.

Dan Kish is a senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research.

By Dan Kish

Guest columnist

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