On Wednesday, Senator Jim Inhofe began circulating a choice little clip of EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz explaining how his agency exercises control over the oil and gas industries, using a rather unfortunate metaphor:
“It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there.”
(Emphasis mine.) You couldn’t find an uglier metaphor for Obama-style command economics if you hired Hannibal Lecter to write a campaign ad.
Armendariz began his presentation by acknowledging that he was about to deploy an example that was “a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting,” and has apologized for his “poor choice of words,” but his glimpse into the EPA mindset has produced such outrage that there are growing calls for his head… er, let me rephrase that: there are growing calls for him to lose his job.
Inhofe, of course, led the way: ““Let’s keep in mind, this is all a part of Obama’s war on domestic energy. He’s the one who said that we have good natural gas and it’s plentiful and all of that but we’ve got to stop hydraulic fracturing. This is the war on hydraulic fracturing.” He’s launching an investigation of the EPA, after dismissing Armendariz’ apology as “meaningless.”
“The use of threats and intimidation to force energy companies to submit to an extremist agenda may be fitting under a totalitarian regime, but it is never acceptable in the United States,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA). “The sad reality is that Mr. Armendariz employed this strategy. Without real evidence, the EPA tried to stop a company that was safely drilling with hydraulic fracturing. The case was finally dismissed earlier this year, but it stands as an example of the EPA’s willingness to ‘crucify’ energy companies. Mr. Aremdariz’s apology for his remarks is simply not enough. He should no longer be in a position from which he can wield his authority to intimidate hard-working companies.”
Fleming was referring to the EPA’s persecution of the Range Resources drilling company in Texas, which was stridently accused of contaminating drinking water with its fracking operations, despite assurances to the contrary by state agencies. When Range Resources went to court, the EPA quietly withdrew its complaints. The Texas Railroad Commission ended up accusing the EPA of “fear mongering” and “gross negligence.”
Armendariz now gets to breathe deeply of the exhaust fumes from the oncoming “Obama Bus,” as the Administration that appointed him decides it doesn’t want to die on this particular hill. “What he said is clearly not representative of either this president’s belief in the way that we should approach these matters or in the way that he has approached these matters, either from this office here in the White House or at the EPA,” declared White House spokesman Jay “Three Hilary Rosens” Carney.
The EPA brass insists that “strong, fair, and effective enforcement of the environmental laws passed by Congress is critical to protecting public health and ensuring that all companies, regardless of industry, are playing by the same rules.” That’s why the EPA declared war on a couple in Idaho after deciding the site of their dream house was a “wetland,” and tried to intimidate them out of challenging its judgment with $32,000 daily fines, until the Supreme Court stepped in. Rumors that this statement was scribbled on the back of an ObamaCare waiver were quickly debunked.
Once we’re finished stretching Al Armendariz out on the rack… whoa, wait a second, let’s try that again. Once we’re finished expressing our outrage over Al Armendariz and the language he used, we should consider the fundamental truth of what he said. The private sector our government pretends to control is far too vast to be effectively micro-managed, even by Washington’s bloated payroll.
Look at the army of 4,000 new IRS agents hired to enforce ObamaCare, with thousands more still to come. It’s the biggest IRS expansion in history, and it wasn’t a small agency to begin with, but even they won’t be able to police the health care of 300 million Americans… any more than they’ve ever been able to accurately explain the pre-ObamaCare tax code to us.
Complex tax codes depend upon public fear, imposed through high-profile examples. Virtually everyone could be judged a lawbreaker, because the tax code is too complex for any business or individual to achieve perfect compliance. There aren’t enough resources to process all of those “crimes,” so not everyone gets busted.
The great new frontier of Big Government expansion lies in mandates, which exercise the force of law against people who have committed no crime. This allows the most bankrupt super-State in world history to punch far above its weight, controlling much beyond what it actually pays for, or funds through taxation. The kind of intimidation Armendariz referred to is a vital tool for exerting that degree of control. Otherwise, there would be too much effective resistance, and the government would find itself bogged down in court with an endless string of Range Resources plaintiffs.
Law enforcement is always surrounded by a penumbra of deterrence. The State cannot be everywhere at once, policing every square inch of the nation. There is always the hope that potential criminals will be intimidated by the sight of others receiving punishment. It gets ugly when it gets big, and a massive central authority asserts its benevolence, while exerting force against an increasing number of citizens.
The Obama Administration knows perfectly well that America won’t buy those sacred electric cars, solar panels, and wind farms if plentiful gas and oil are available. The kind of “transformation” Obama desires is compulsive. Deterrence always accompanies compulsion.