Russian president Vladimir Putin has completed his Anschluss of Crimea to the sound of muted global grumbling. He now is watching America and the West for signals on what he can get away with next. Putin surely is calculating whether to keep 80,000 Red Army troops on Russia’s side of its border with Ukraine or deploy them across that red line — to the greater glory of Mother Russia.
In that context, Obama exhibited breathtaking weakness on March 28 when he ordered the EPA to study the methane generated by oil and gas production. This research, part of Obama’s obsession with so-called “global warming,” is scheduled to continue through late 2014. After that, the EPA will decide whether or not to regulate oil and gas development even further. This paralysis of analysis most likely will push decisions on the Keystone XL pipeline and new federal fracking permits well past November’s midterm elections.
“We’re studying it,” Team Obama can say when asked about Keystone and fracking. “We’ll make up our minds later.”
Kicking this gas canister down the road keeps the Left hoping that Obama will kill Keystone and new fracking plans come 2015. Meanwhile, since Obama now can scrutinize projects rather than block them, the Right will be unable to pound him as hard as they would if he actually had nixed Keystone and fracking initiatives. Obama also can assuage the pro-energy labor unions with assurances that “we’ll take a look after November.” That should keep them calm, and their coffers open.
So Obama likely will get what he wants, all the way through the November 4 vote, as Capitol Hill dangles in the balance.
At the same time, Obama has shown Putin that he need not worry about the one weapon that Moscow fears most: America’s ability to drive oil and gas prices into the floor.
“Russia’s oil and natural-gas industry,” Diane Francis explained in Sunday’s New York Post, “provides 70 percent of the country’s export income and 52 percent of its government’s revenues. Moscow now controls half the energy market in Europe and is able to adjust prices to punish or reward countries and to keep others quiet.”
The solution to this problem is literally beneath our toes. Cranking up American supplies of oil and gas would drown the Russian economy in fossil fuels, sink the Kremlin’s cash flows, and possibly wash Putin away in a subsequent high tide of popular discontent. Obama could accomplish all of this without putting one U.S. boot on the ground anywhere outside the Lower 48 states.
This strategy also would defibrillate the American economy with abundant, cheap energy — made in the U.S.A. Lower fuel and electricity costs would help America reindustrialize. This would be great news for unemployed workers and those wondering how to launch their careers. Even without government mandates, such manufacturing employees likely would earn more than the $10.10 that Obama seeks as a new minimum wage. These healthy incomes should help Obama defeat his latest bête noire: so-called “income inequality.”
Obama could checkmate Putin on the global chessboard by amplifying U.S. oil and gas output. But rather than confront Putin’s clear and present danger, Obama continues his boneheaded and inexplicable fixation with “greenhouse gases” and their theoretical threat to Obama’s imaginary world of Magic Realism. Here on Earth, alas, Putin thrusts his bayonet, encounters broccoli, and keeps on pushing.
For now, the Russians had better call their equivalent of 911 right away and immediately dispatch an ambulance to Red Square. Vladimir Putin is on the shiny marble floor of the Grand Kremlin Palace, dying of laughter.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.