U.S. Energy Crisis a Liberal Power Grab

[This article was originally published as the cover story for the May 23rd issue of HUMAN EVENTS newspaper.]

As American families and businesses struggle with the increasing prices for energy and gasoline and a stagnant economy, there are many theories about how the United States has gotten to this point.  But when we cut through all of the rhetoric, demagoguery and complicated explanations, the truth becomes simple:  Ever since the United States government got involved in energy policy, we have had a problem.  Democrats and liberal Republicans, acting at the behest of groups hiding behind environmental cover to push policies giving government more power, are directly responsible for our current situation.  This is deliberate on the part of some, while others are simply dupes who have been used.  Regardless of the motivations, if not stopped, continued pursuit of these policies will lead to the destruction of the United States as we know it.

It is no coincidence that U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, the year after President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Protection Agency was established, just the beginning of a decade of laws that have made the United States the hardest place in the world to produce energy.  When the federal government started taking over roles traditionally held by the states and expanding its reach into every corner of every economic activity in the country, those who love more government had the perfect proxy for justifying more power over the economy and over the way Americans live their lives.  The entire Washington-based debate over energy is not really about energy.  It’s about power—the coin of the realm in D.C.

Despite—or better yet because of—the fact that the 20th century was the American Century in large part due to our energy consumption, certain groups that are uncomfortable with U.S. economic, military and political power set out to cut off the fuel to our nation’s economic engine.  Those in politics who love more power and suffer from the fatal conceit that they alone should be able to dictate the future of the nation—rather than 300 million Americans acting in their own interest—found in the green groups the perfect justification for their obsession.

They have been very successful.  By shutting off almost all of the government-owned lands and making it harder, more expensive and more time-consuming to produce energy, they have forced the U.S. to import well over half of the oil it consumes.  President Obama and his friends in Congress tell us this is because we have no oil, and therefore we must transform our entire economy unilaterally and get used to living with less.  Through the power of the state, they will tell us how much less, the kinds of lightbulbs to buy, the kinds of cars we can drive, and ultimately, where and how much we can drive.  They must use the power of the state—they say—because scarcity of energy requires central planning.

The Many Ways Liberals Lie

They are lying.  They are lying about the economics of the alternative energy forms.  They are lying when they complain that energy prices are too high because, in truth, they like higher energy prices.  And they are lying when they say that the U.S. does not have sufficient energy resources.  By repeating this canard, they hope to lull Americans into accepting more government power over their lives.  Republican Senators Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) did the entire nation a service by commissioning a report by the Congressional Research Service that said that the U.S. has the largest energy resources of any nation on Earth.

Four decades of terrible policy—with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s tenure and the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in the ’70s—have made the United States weaker and the government richer and stronger.  As a result, we now transfer $400 billion or so every year to foreign governments to create jobs in foreign lands so they can supply us with energy that we could supply ourselves.  And the Alaskan pipeline?  Starved for oil by federal policies, it now runs at less than one-third capacity, which means we import more than $50 billion a year of un-American oil to replace the American oil which used to fuel the West Coast.

The worst offenders at weakening America are the biggest critics of the American oil companies and of energy use generally.  For example, when the U.S. Senate sought to raise taxes on domestic energy production—which anyone can understand would reduce U.S. oil production and increase un-American imports—the effort was led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.), who is also a strong opponent of offshore drilling, of drilling anywhere in Alaska, of producing from America’s largest-in-the-world oil shale deposits, and anything else that makes economic or energy sense.  Menendez was upset several weeks ago because his bill to disadvantage U.S. oil production and drive up imports was referred to as “un-American” by someone working for a U.S. oil company.  In Washington, it is said that a faux pas is when someone tells the truth.  And there is nothing more dangerous than a pompous demagogue confronted with his own hypocrisy.

For 40 years, Congress has passed laws pretending to protect the environment or animals or lands in exchange for the support of left-wing green groups that have gladly championed more power for the government because they understood—even if some of the nitwit politicians didn’t—that if the government got involved in energy, there would be less energy, it would be more expensive and more un-American, and the growth and power of the United States would be diminished.  The green groups don’t expect the government to have much impact on the environment, but they know that the government is the best means of screwing up America’s energy policy and our capacity to do more work.  They have accomplished many of their goals.

So despite the fact that the U.S. has the largest energy supplies in the world and energy consumption is absolutely necessary for economic growth, our government tells us we have none, and that the answer to our energy problems is to use less and to live with less while they live with more—more power, more money and more say over the lives of those in the future in the greatest country on Earth.  Does this make you angry at all the strutting, self-righteous, power-grubbing people in Washington who are always prescribing more government as the answer to all of our problems?  It should, unless you prefer more un-American energy and a more un-American America.