Obama's energy policy: "All of the above," but nothing from below

“Over the last several weeks, the plug was pulled on two state-of-the-art coal projects in Texas that were projected to exceed $5.5 billion in private investment and create hundreds of jobs,” declares the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a press release.  “The reason? The Obama administration’s ongoing push for climate regulations that will effectively regulate coal, and thousands of coal jobs, out of existence.”

They’re referring to the $2.5 billion White Stallion Energy Center near Houston, Texas, and the $3 billion Las Brisas plant in Corpus Christi.  These projects were “suspended after the President signaled he would bypass Congress and move forward with aggressive new emissions regulations.”  If anything, House Energy undersells the number of jobs wiped out by these plant suspensions.  The Las Brisas plant would have resulted in 1,300 immediate jobs, plus another 2,600 from related support industries.  The White Stallion plant would, according to its proposal, have employed 2,250 skilled construction workers, then recruited 150 to 200 permanent employees.

The management teams behind both projects explicitly blamed EPA hyper-regulation as prime factors in their decisions.  Chase Power CEO Dave Freysinger said that his Las Brisas Energy Center was “a victim of EA’s concerted effort to stifle solid fuel-energy facilities in the U.S., including EPA’s carbon-permitting requirements and EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for new power plants… these costly rules exceeded the bounds of EPA authority, incur tremendous costs, and produce no real benefits related to climate change.”

White Stallion’s chief operating officer, Randy Bird, was equally blunt:  “Pronouncements by the administration — most recently in the President’s State of the Union message — continue to indicate that additional regulatory barriers to such projects will be erected.  In addition, even though the generation needs for the state of Texas continue to grow, the presently low price of natural gas has made the price of electricity from a new coal fired generator uncompetitive at this time.”

Bird’s comments illustrate an important factor in the War on Coal.  Regulatory barriers don’t have to forbid the exploration of energy resources outright, in order to kill them.  They just have to raise the cost of doing business enough for other factors to overwhelm the projects.  In White Stallion’s case, the Houston Chronicle notes there were also problems with securing the water needed by the power plant, even after the company redesigned the plant to use 85 percent less water.  And as Bird indicated, competitive pressure from the natural gas industry had to be considered.

The Administration’s environmentalist allies are openly celebrating the latest scalps they’ve collected.  “The White Stallion plant, like the recently mothballed Las Brisas project in Corpus Christi, hopefully represents the last dying gasp of new coal plants in Texas proposing to employ technologies from the last century,” said Jim Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund.  Good thing we don’t leave decisions like that up to the American people, expressing their will through the free market!  They can’t be trusted to decide which industries or technologies should live or die.

This is all consistent with one of the few 2008 campaign promises that Barack Obama actually kept.  “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” candidate Obama declared.  “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”  A few thousand jobs here and there are but a modest tithe to America’s official state religion, the Church of Global Warming.  Keep that in mind when you hear Obama’s next phony claim that job creation is his Number One priority.  The President also loves to boast of his “all of the above” energy strategy, but as House Energy notes, it’s really more like “all-of-the-above but nothing-from-below.”