Thursday, October 18, 2012

Obama's Energy Starvation: The Real Story

US President Obama has a tendency to claim credit for everything good, and to deny blame for anything bad that happens. But more intelligent people tend to look beneath a politician's public statements and claims, in order to detect the threads of reality hidden below.
One of the feats of President Obama's re-election campaign is its ability to describe his record in a way that bears little or no relation to the reality of the last four years.

...As we have learned, the plan was to subsidize dozens of companies with little commercial potential but that were often owned by Mr. Obama's green allies. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency would go on a regulatory binge like nothing in modern U.S. history against traditional carbon-based sources of energy, coal in particular. Mr. Romney went small bore in the debate, noting that the Administration has not in practice promoted the production of U.S. energy resources on federal lands and waters, in fact the opposite. Mr. Obama responded by flatly stating that "very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous Administration." He said he supported "an all-of-the-above strategy."

"But that's not what you've done in the last four years," Mr. Romney said. "That's the problem." Mr. Obama: "Sure it is." Mr. Romney: "In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half." Mr. Obama: "Not true, Governor Romney."

Then there was this timeless bit: Mr. Obama: "The production is up."

Mr. Romney: "Production on government land of oil is down 14%."

Mr. Obama: "Governor—"

Mr. Romney: "And production of gas is down 9%."

Mr Obama: "What you're saying is just not true. It's just not true."

The problem for the President is that a government outfit called the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) compiles these statistics. That's where Mr. Romney got his accurate figures on oil and gas production on government land and permitting in Mr. Obama's first term. The EIA also reports that total fossil fuel production in public areas—oil, gas and coal—has plunged to a nine-year low, to 18.6 quadrillion BTUs from 21.2 quadrillion in 2003.

Mr. Obama is correct that overall domestic energy production is up, thanks largely to the shale boom in states like Pennsylvania and North Dakota. But he's trying to take credit for something he had nothing to do with, given that this surge is taking place on private property and the EPA is searching for an excuse to supplant state regulation and slow down drilling. Wait for the second term.

...In 2008 Mr. Obama declared that he wanted electricity rates for so-called dirty fuels to "necessarily skyrocket" and "if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can—it's just that it will bankrupt them."

That's one promise he's kept: For the first time, coal is in decline, with production falling 6.5% since 2008, according to the EIA. Part of the reason is a shock from cheap natural gas. But the major reason is a surge of EPA air and water rules, such as an unrealistic and pointless $9.6 billion rule for trace mercury emissions that the agency put out last year.

The EIA expects 8.5% of the coal-fired fleet to retire by 2016, and 17% by 2020, and those are very conservative estimates. Coal has fallen to 32% of U.S. net electric generation, according to preliminary EIA data for 2012. This share stood at about 48% when Mr. Obama took office.

All of this amounts to one of the fastest energy transitions in U.S. history. Even some regulators within the Administration oppose the EPA's force majeure, fearing blackouts and other reliability issues as plants are retired despite many remaining useful years. Amid mine closings and layoffs, the United Mine Workers of America declined to endorse Mr. Obama this year, though the union did in 2008. _WSJ
More at the link.

If Mr. Obama manages to lie and cheat his way into a second term as US President, Americans will discover to their deep regret how badly they needed the energy of which Obama will have starved them.

Much will depend upon the composition of the US Congress from 2013 through 2016. But the US president has control over the huge, bloated executive branch of US government, and possesses the power of executive order.

Expect turbulence ahead, regardless of the outcome of the US November elections. But if Obama is re-elected, expect the unexpected -- bigtime.

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