By Steve Milloy
February 1, 2012, Washington Times
“Let the fossil fuels go, or the wind industry gets it in the wallet.” That’s the threat congressional Republicans need to convey to their colleagues across the aisle to stop the Obama war against fossil fuels.
Despite President Obama’s effort in his State of the Union address to position himself as favoring an “all of the above” approach to domestic energy production, the reality of the past three years has been quite to the contrary.
After failing to crush the coal industry with the ill-fated Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, Mr. Obama has since loosed his regulatory agencies, especially the thuggish Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is on the verge of proposing its greenhouse gas emission rules for power plants – the “cap” part of cap-and-trade – despite ongoing litigation over their legality.
One concern is that the rules as implemented will block the construction of new coal-fired power plants – the very same sort of power that safely provides about 45 percent of U.S. electricity.
And those existing plants are in danger, too.
Not only has the EPA issued its expensive anti-coal Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and Mercury Air Toxics Standard – part of the suite of regulations known as the “EPA train wreck” that pose a threat to electricity reliability – the president has also sicced the Department of Interior and Mine Safety Administration on the coal industry to interfere with underground mining.
Mr. Obama tried to sound positive and even take credit for the natural gas glut brought about by the revolutionary practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The reality, however, is that his EPA is working on measures to insinuate itself into what so far has largely been a state regulatory issue, with the aim of reeling in the burgeoning field.
As for oil drilling, in addition to rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the needless moratorium on Gulf drilling following the 2010 oil spill, Mr. Obama has dramatically cut back on western drilling.
New Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leases were down 44 percent in 2009-10 compared with 2007-08, and permits and new wells drilled were both down 39 percent, with both trends continuing into 2011, according to a new report from the American Petroleum Institute.
There is, however, a pre-election solution to Mr. Obama’s war on fossil fuels.
Vital wind-industry tax credits expire at the end of 2012, and the industry is in a near-panic to extend them. The industry employs about 75,000 people, about half of whom will be laid off if the “production tax credit” is not extended, according to the research firm Navigant Consulting. Lapse of the tax credit threatens two-thirds of private investment in the wind industry.
Wind is an Obama-favored industry that Republicans just happen to have by the throat. So if Mr. Obama wants wind, he needs to halt and roll back his anti-fossil-fuel jihad. That’s the deal congressional Republicans should offer.
While some may scream at the thought of Republicans agreeing to subsidize not-ready-for-prime-time technologies like wind in a time of budgetary crisis, the subsidy only amounts to about $10 billion – chump change in a $3-trillion-plus federal budget.
Assuming the war against fossil fuels stops, that $10 billion would be counterbalanced by tens of billions not lost to regulatory burdens. It also would unleash the fossil-fuel industry to do one of the things America does best – produce energy for domestic use and export. That could be worth more than $3 trillion in gross domestic product over the next 20 years, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Although wind for fossil fuels is a no-brainer, Republicans, so far, are thinking small.
The New York Times reported last week that the GOP leadership may be looking at trading wind credits for just the Keystone XL pipeline. In normal times, that might be a good trade, but these are not normal times.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that Mr. Obama will be defeated in November. The current Mr. Obama has been bad enough for fossil fuels and our economy. A re-elected Mr. Obama would be worse – finishing the job he started in his first term.
Certainly, a Republican-controlled House that has delivered very little relief from the Obama anti-fossil-fuel policies and that has precious few opportunities left to indemnify its failure before the election can screw up enough courage for serious hostage-taking.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery, 2009).