Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Marita Noon
 
Issue CCLXXXII - March 26, 2011
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On Sunday, March 20, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, dodged questions about his support of high gas prices while admitting that they would go up—saying the administration is working to take the “pain out of high gas prices.” A week earlier, the day of Japan’s catastrophic earthquake, President Obama held a press conference on gas prices in which he bragged about “producing more oil and importing less,” claiming to be moving on an energy strategy that pursues “more energy production” and increases access to “secure energy supplies.”

These statements would leave us to believe that the administration cares about the “pain” of high energy prices Americans are facing and wants a secure “energy future.” Instead they are a distraction from the true actions of the administration that block access to America’s energy.

Space does not permit a thorough review of the energy-killing policies, but here’s a sampling of the administration’s actions indicative of the breadth of sources, agencies, and locales.

Banning deep-water drilling in the Gulf is probably the most well-known energy-killer. Immediately after the BP spill, Obama issued a moratorium that prevented potential oil production. The ban, originally thrown out by a US District Judge, expired November 30th, 2010, but virtually no permits have been issued since—creating a de facto ban. On February 17th, the same judge ordered the Interior Department to act quickly on offshore drilling applications—calling the inaction "increasingly inexcusable." Not only have gas prices gone up as a result; jobs have been lost, and businesses have gone bankrupt.

Onshore, the administration uses land designations to block oil and gas exploration and extraction. Right now the Dunes Sage Brush Lizard is threatening the entire economy of Southeastern New Mexico. The Fish and Wildlife Service has nominated the oil-rich region as critical habitat for the critter. Nearly a year ago, a Department of the Interior (DOI) list of “good candidates for National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act” was made public. Of the suggested locations, roughly half had known energy resources—to which the President can unilaterally restrict access through a National Monument designation. Additionally, in December of 2010, Interior Secretary Salazar circumvented Congress’s authority by creating a new designation: “Wild Lands”—which locks up lands without US citizens having a voice through our elected officials.

The “actions” are not just about oil and gas.

In late 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revoked a coal-mining permit in West Virginia issued to Arch Coal in 2007. Not only did the regulatory action stall the development of domestic energy; it hurts the American economy at time when we most need the jobs. The EPA is also tightening regulations that make coal-fueled electricity more expensive.

Despite Chu and Obama insisting they support nuclear power, actions suggest otherwise. While campaigning, Obama promised to shut down Yucca Mountain in Nevada—which was done in mid-2009. Without long-term storage of so-called nuclear “waste,” the administration will not allow any new nuclear power plants. Plus, the process is so prohibitive that no nuclear plant permits have been issued since Obama’s election. If nuclear power was a priority, plant construction that they say takes ten years, according to experts, could be done in half the time. 

Nuclear power requires a source fuel: uranium—a mineral abundant in the US. But DOI and EPA actions bar new uranium mining in Arizona. The first new uranium mill in twenty-five years has been approved in Colorado, but construction, energy, and jobs are being stalled by the EPA.

Not even renewable energy is immune. A new study reveals that 351 proposed energy projects in 49 states have been “delayed or cancelled” due to activism, permitting, and “a system that allows for limitless lawsuits.” Of these, the study found that “almost half” are renewable energy projects.

Renewables, such as wind and solar, require vast quantities of metals and minerals. Yet, these, too, face regulatory barriers. A foreign company proposed to bring money into Montana’s economy by further drilling on a known deposit of tungsten—essential for steel (each wind turbine requires 335 tons of steel). The Forest Service would approve the permit if done with mules and pick axes instead of the modern equipment used there thirty years ago.

All of the press conferences and television appearances may say, “We want cheap energy,” but actions speak louder than words. We’ve heard the words. What do their actions say? Why are they killing energy?

Take away energy, and you take away freedom.


Marita Noon is the executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), a nonprofit organization that operates from the platform of "Energy Makes America Great" and supports all domestic energy development. She can be reached at marita@responsiblenergy.org or www.responsiblenergy.org

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