The Growth Agenda
The Democratic agenda is regressive — and it should be labeled as such.

Fracking platform in Waynesburg, Penn.


Robert Zubrin

The policy of the Obama administration is to employ regulatory strangulation to drive up the price of energy. This must be exposed and opposed for what it is: a policy of forced economic contraction. Items to be identified as part of this policy include:

Efforts to impede the development of oil resources by impeding exploration, discouraging drilling, or holding up the building of infrastructure required for transport. The U.S. is the world’s leading oil importer; our adversaries are the world’s leading exporters. Any policy that restricts our oil production and thereby protects the ability of the Islamist-led OPEC cartel to rig high oil prices hurts the U.S. and helps our adversaries.

Efforts to impede the development of natural gas by creating regulatory obstacles to fracking and other technologies.

Efforts to constrict the nuclear industry. Prior to 1971, the average time from groundbreaking to commencement of operation for a nuclear plant was four years. For the most recently completed plants, it is 15 years. This fatal fourfold increase has been imposed by the EPA and the National Environmental Protection Act. Under this law, nuclear-power projects have been subjected to constant delays caused both by government bureaucrats who capriciously change engineering requirements during the middle of construction and by repeated legal harassment by organizations whose openly stated objective is to wreck the nuclear industry by driving up its costs. In addition, capital costs have been multiplied fourfold by endless additional requirements imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — all without rational engineering justification. Furthermore, as a result of NRC interference, it has become nearly impossible for the nuclear industry to make improvements, even obvious ones that might serve to reduce its costs. The Obama administration has further assisted this campaign by intervening to block the establishment of a permanent nuclear-waste repository in Nevada, a project on which the government had already spent billions of dollars. In doing so, it acted not only against the nuclear industry but against the public safety, since clearly, from a safety point of view, it is far preferable to store spent nuclear waste under a mountain in the middle of the Nevada desert than in plantside cooling ponds near major metropolitan areas.

Efforts to kill coal-fired power generation. Nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of American electricity, while coal produces 40 percent. Obama’s EPA recently set forth new regulations that will, at a minimum, vastly increase the price of coal-generated power, and that will most likely, as is their clear intent, wipe the industry out altogether. This will destroy hundreds of billions of dollars of private property and impose trillions of dollars of highly regressive, economy-destroying costs on the American public. The Romney campaign seriously mishandled this matter by discussing the president’s war on coal as if it were a niche issue that was of concern primarily to coal miners. Nothing could be further from the truth. By driving up the cost of electricity, Obama’s policy will make America less competitive across the board, causing the loss of millions of jobs in every sector of the economy.

Beyond opposing the destructive efforts of the Obama administration to constrict our energy production, the GOP needs to take the lead in forcing open the transportation-fuel market to non-petroleum resources. In particular, this means methanol, a very clean-burning liquid fuel that can be cheaply made from coal or natural gas — both resources that the U.S. possesses in abundance. Methanol is currently selling for $1.30 per gallon, without any subsidy. Nearly all cars sold in America for the past five years have flex-fuel capabilities that can be enabled by a properly skilled mechanic at little expense, and that would allow them to be driven with equal facility on gasoline, methanol, ethanol, or any mixture of the three, thereby opening the fuel market to free-market competition that would drive prices down across the board. Unfortunately, the EPA currently bans the commercial marketing of such conversions, as well as the sale of motor-vehicle methanol fuel in concentrations above 5.4 percent. These artificial regulatory obstacles to making full use of our own fuel resources are causing immense economic harm to America and need to be removed.

3. Defeat the war on carbon. This is closely related to the energy issue, but it has a broader aspect as well. President Obama has declared that a central goal of his second term will be to reduce humanity’s use of carbon. Yet as can be seen in figure 2, below, which graphs the advance in human well-being over the past 200 years (as measured by average global per capita GDP, in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars), a sizable portion of the world’s population has managed an almost miraculous escape from poverty over the past two centuries.

Figure 2. Global GDP per capita vs. total human carbon use, 1800–2010 (in 2010 dollars)

As the graph shows, this has been driven largely by carbon use. But with the average human being still surviving on less than $9,000 per year, it is clear that we still have a long way to go. If the bulk of the human race is to have the opportunity for a decent life, it is clear that the world needs to use a lot more carbon. The president and his party, however, say they want to stop this march forward. In fact, they want to turn the clock back to the 1990 levels specified by the Kyoto treaty, which correspond to an average global income of $5,000 per year. This is a brutally reactionary position, and needs to be exposed as such.