President Obama loves to talk about energy independence. In his 2012 State of the Union address, he said he wanted to “lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last—an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.” He also called for “an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”
The president mentioned energy two dozen times during his speech, but his actions are so strongly at odds with his words that he deserves credit for being able to keep a straight face while addressing Congress. Does he really think Americans have forgotten that he slapped down the Keystone XL pipeline project, just a week ago? Or that he destroyed the American offshore drilling industry in 2009?
Obama’s actions are not temporary mistakes that can be easily corrected by his successors. Those offshore drilling platforms are mobile. They were towed away to other oil fields, such as those off the coast of Brazil, where Obama spent billions of dollars to encourage the very same industry he forbids Americans to pursue, only to see Brazil decide to sell its oil to China, which struck a far better deal.
As for the Canadian oil that would have been carried into America by the Keystone XL pipeline, well, that’s probably going to China, too. Obama is murder on American commerce, but he has been very good for China.
The Keystone XL pipeline would have created 20,000 U.S. construction jobs almost immediately, and ten times as many jobs throughout the duration of the project. It would have brought 900,000 barrels of oil from Canada to American refineries every day. The economic value of the project has been estimated at more than $20 billion, and it would have enhanced America’s energy independence. America may not ever be completely independent, but we could become much more self-reliant.
The reasons Obama gave for scuttling the project were laughably thin. Incredibly, he expects the public to believe he was placed under unreasonable pressure when Congress got tired of his endless dithering and gave him 60 days to make up his mind, instead of allowing him to delay until after the 2012 elections, as he would have preferred. This was not a pop quiz that landed on the president’s desk in December 2011. The Keystone XL project has been under development for three years. It has already met environmental standards. America already has about 55,000 miles of safe and reliable oil pipeline. Even the Sierra Club admitted that transporting oil by pipeline is safer than using trains or ships.
The Sierra Club, in fact, is putting forth an argument that rings familiar and is as empty today as it was 40 years ago. The group argues that building the infrastructure will only encourage and prolong American dependence on oil, suggesting that by not supporting oil infrastructure, America will be forced to turn away from it and pressed to find successful alternatives. For those with long memories, especially in California, this thinking echoes the anti-freeway construction advocates of the 1970s – if new freeways encourage development and population expansion and the objective is to curb growth (at least for the anti-growthers of the time), then let’s not build freeways. Did not building the I-105 freeway stop Southern California growth? Hardly. California’s population nearly doubled to 37.6 million by mid-2011 from 19.95 million in 1970. And the I-105 eventually was built. The point is, the argument is all but empty. America is not likely to stop using oil anytime soon, and energy innovation will come whether or not the pipeline is built. Demand in world energy markets is intensifying and widespread “green sentiment” on left and right will push for it.
In President Obama’s State of the Union speech, when he spoke of building the “new energy future” he envisions for America, he fondly recalled that America built the Hoover Dam and Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression. For anyone familiar with the Keystone XL debacle, it was the laugh-out-loud moment of the night. As if Obama’s bloated, fantastically expensive, hyper-regulatory government could ever shake off its paralysis long enough to approve of such mighty projects, let alone complete them, in the four or five years it took to build those Depression-era wonders!
Whatever else you can say about the America of the 1930s, it had a level of energy that Obama’s debt-riddled, helpless leviathan utterly lacks.