Politicians give speeches about reducing the price of a gallon of gas. The free market, when allowed to be free, delivers.
As Jimmy Carter hectored America and Bill Clinton raised taxes on gasoline and Obama gave speeches demanding higher taxes on energy producers, the price of gasoline and energy increased.
But far away from politicians’ speeches the market broke through like a blade of grass though cracks in concrete.
This year America???s oil producers will cut the American people a $550 check in the form of lower gas prices. Huge increases in American oil production have dropped the price of oil below $50 and the average price of gasoline to $2.10. Skyrocketing natural gas production is saving consumers hundreds of dollars and is protecting consumers from the costly Environmental Protection Agency???s (EPA) regulations on electricity production, particularly coal-powered plants. While the EPA takes, the market creates.
The United States is now the number one oil and natural gas producing country in the world, an honor almost entirely attributable to the shale revolution. Energy producers combining horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have unlocked billions of barrels of oil and cubic feet of natural gas. Shale production alone is responsible for over 2 million American jobs and has turned sleepy towns in Pennsylvania and North Dakota into bustling hubs of economic development. North Dakota???s unemployment rate was 2.8 percent in December of 2014.
Although in speeches Obama likes to take credit for America???s increased oil and natural gas production, these gains have occurred in spite of the president???s policies, not because of them. Oil and natural gas production has surged on non-federal lands while oil and natural gas production has fallen on the one area the president has jurisdiction over ??? federal lands.
According to a nonpartisan Congressional Research Report released last year, oil production on federal lands fell 6 percent between 2009 and 2013. Over the same period of time, oil production increased by 61 percent on state and private lands.
America???s oil production on state and private lands has increased more than Algeria, Libya, Qatar, and Norway independently produce. Yet, none of these gains would have been possible if the same administration that continues to block the Keystone XL Pipeline had authority over all U.S. territory.
The disconnect between Obama???s actions and language towards the oil and natural gas industry is perfectly contained in this year???s state of the union. In the same speech that Obama boasts about the United States being the world???s largest oil and natural gas producing country, he disparages Republicans supportive of the Keystone XL Pipeline by urging the GOP to ???set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.??? The President???s own State Department Environmental Impact Statement estimates that building the $8 billion Keystone pipeline will create 43,000 jobs and have no ???significant??? impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
The House and Senate will soon send the president a bill allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built, legislation the president says he will veto. Congressional Republicans do not want to dedicate so much of the legislative calendar to fixing the President???s messes, but someone has to. Just as Obama likes to take credit for increased oil and natural gas production, low gasoline prices, and the oil and natural gas jobs currently buttressing our economy, he actively opposes a mundane oil pipeline.
Then there are the regulations, and there are a lot of them. It is no accident that many of the most damaging regulations are coming after the 2014 election. In 2015 alone, the Obama administration is expected to issue regulations that will ensure new coal-fired power plants are never economical to build again, a regulation to close existing coal power plants, new regulations for methane emissions that will make hydraulic fracturing less appealing, and the most expensive regulation in the history of the United States. While President Obama might not be supporting the oil and natural gas industry, he is certainly making sure the EPA???s regulators and lawyers are all employed.
Next time you hear Democrats or the President taking credit for America???s low unemployment rate or gasoline prices, just think how much better it could have been if they got out of the way of America???s oil and natural gas producers.
Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform and author of the forthcoming book, End The IRS Before It Ends Us.