President Obama has been touring the country to talk about “Winning the Future.” And at each event, he’s promised to take “clean energy from imagination to reality.”
Conspicuously absent from all his recent speeches, though, has been any mention of climate change, global warming or carbon-dioxide (CO2) rationing.
No doubt this is the result of the political fiasco surrounding his favored cap-and-trade legislation. By way of background, shortly after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi jammed it through the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009, cap-and-trade lost favor with the American people. They recognized it for what it was: a new open-ended tax, a massive job killer, and a government power grab of the energy industry. Its supporters tried to put on a brave face, but the U.S. Senate, chock full of opponents on both sides of the aisle, never even brought it up for a vote.
But what Obama wanted through the front door is now being proposed through the rear window. The president’s is using new language to sell his economy-debilitating policies, but not the policies themselves. It is old vinegar in new bottles.
Truth be told, the push for government carbon controls actually figures prominently in his 2012 energy policy. He just hasn’t bothered informing the American people what he’s really talking about.
During this year’s State of the Union, he called for the nation to join him in a new goal: 80% of America’s electricity from “clean” energy sources by 2035. Such is not what consumers will naturally support. Indeed, a federal mandate would require that utilities produce electricity from politically correct renewables solar, wind, and biofuels each year, no matter how inefficient or costly.
Obama can dress his proposals up as this generation’s “Sputnik Moment,” but, as Fred Upton, the new Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says, “[it] smells like cap-and-trade all over again.”
Cap-and-trade’s ultimate goal was to super-tax fossil fuels, making them so cost-prohibitive that diluted, unreliable renewables would look better. Now, President Obama is just replacing the tax middleman with a flat-out made-in-Washington mandate.
As obscure as his discussion of carbon rationing-by-regulation was in his speech, Obama was loud and clear on his favorite villain: the oil-and-gas robber barons. He renewed his populist battle cry to eliminate the government subsidies they supposedly enjoy.
The reality is different: oil and gas firms pay taxes that are 70 percent higher than remitted by S&P Industrial companies on average. And contrary to what industry critics would have you believe, government subsidies enjoyed by renewable energies are a multiple of what oil and natural gas receive. And that balance is growing increasingly lopsided. For instance, the 2009 so-called economic stimulus package included direct grants for renewable energy totaling $16.8 billion — but not a dime for oil and natural gas.
The Obama Administration and its allies have chosen their economic winners, using taxpayer-funded subsidies to prop up wind and solar industries, while making it increasingly difficult for oil and natural gas firms to explore for and develop the abundant natural resources found onshore and offshore in the United States.
With the oil and natural gas industry responsible for more than 9.2 million American jobs, national unemployment levels continuing to hover between 9 and 10 percent, and so-called green jobs being temporary (bubble) government employment, you’d think it would be in the national interest to stop browbeating the workhorse energies chosen by millions of consumers every day.
In fact, President Obama could learn a lot by looking at the example of North Dakota, which is enjoying a petroleum-based economic renaissance. It has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, suffers a labor shortage, and is the only state in the nation without a budget shortfall for the past four years.
Energy is the master resource. It takes energy to produce everything – even other energy. If government controls energy – whether by tax or regulation – it controls everything. And, if energy prices are set by government, rather than market forces, the impact will be obvious not only in our energy bills, but in the price of every good or service we purchase. This kind of government intrusion into private decision-making and government dominion over private property rights is unconstitutional too.
They can call it cap-and-trade or a generation’s Sputnik Moment, but it’s the same job-killing energy substitution. We shouldn’t be fooled by slick slogans that ultimately rest on government-knows-best.
Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the CEO & Founder of the Institute for Energy Research.