The Corner

Presidential Embarrassment about Gas

It is sad to see the president of the United States not telling the truth about the current gas crisis, as he barnstorms the country ridiculing those who wish to develop more domestic gas and oil.

Yes, we are pumping more oil since January 2009, but only due to prior public leases granted before he took office and new ones on private lands that came despite rather than because of his policies. Unlike Barack Obama, someone who must remain unmentioned decided that it was wise for America to lease federal lands for oil exploration that would come on line in some cases after he left office. Likewise, U.S. demand had slacked off during Obama’s tenure not due to any administration policy, unless prolonging the recession to curb demand was intended.

And to the degree that Obama has had a role in oil production, his has mostly been negative, in denying more new federal leases than did any other recent president. Yet for all the rhetoric about flat-earthers who believe in strange things like supply and demand, Obama himself knows that increasing oil supply does matter. Why? Because he is pondering again tapping the strategic oil reserve, while Democratic senators keep reminding us that the U.S. is begging the Saudis to increase their own production. So why would increased oil from a reserve or from Saudi Arabia matter in a way that increased domestic production heretofore has not?

And the president knows that just in his first three years, there has been a revolutionary change in the known oil and gas supplies of the United States. Fracking and horizontal drilling have completely altered the potential supply-and-demand dynamic in America — a development not only unappreciated by his administration, but also apparently unwelcomed as well. Would that Obama had talked as much about the potential of fracking as he has Solyndra.

Finally the president has not been candid enough to admit that his administration’s own policy heretofore has been to encourage subsidized wind and solar energy at great expense with little to show for it, while expressing a desire for fossil fuels to increase in price. On two occasions Energy Secretary Chu has acknowledged his own wish for higher gas prices, or at least not a worry that they are rising. Interior Secretary Salazar has expressed a similar lack of worry over increased gas prices. And of course the president himself during the past campaign had talked of skyrocketing energy prices as a good thing, while later worrying mostly over the abrupt rate in the rise of gas prices, rather than the fact of high prices themselves.

The truth? The Obama administration all along has been captive to the cult of man-made global warming as expressed by Al Gore, and saw high fossil-fuel prices as a good thing in reducing their use and thus “cooling” the planet, while make subsidized wind, solar, and hybrid power competitive. Worse still, the Obama technocrats naively thought that changing habits, rather than recessionary times, had temporarily lowered demand and thus prices, and were completely caught off guard when a recovering global economy, expanding Chinese and Indian appetites, and unrest in the Middle East all sent oil futures skyrocketing. Had we opened up federal lands for drilling three years ago and encouraged the private sector to drill at breakneck speed as a matter both of national security and national financial solvency, we might well have had at least the expectation of 1–2 extra million barrels coming on line that would have dampened speculation.

Obama’s energy policy mirror-images his other pipe dream of 2008 about the War on Terror, when his long-accustomed demagogic rhetoric about closing Guantanamo, ending renditions, tribunals, and preventative detention, as well as pruning back elements of the wiretaps and intercepts, met reality in January 2009, and was quietly dropped. It’s also reminiscent of the hundreds of exemptions from Obamacare that have been given to favored businesses.

Item by item, we are seeing the fantasies of academics and community organizers overtaken by the reality of a quite unforgiving material world — and the reality of wanting to hang onto power by being reelected.

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