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Opinion Pieces

Obama doesn’t back up his energy rhetoric

As appeared in The Hill

“We need an all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every source of American energy — a strategy that’s cleaner and cheaper and full of new jobs,” President Obama said during his State of the Union address.

I welcome Obama’s newly found commitment to developing every available source of American energy. This “all-in” strategy for U.S. energy should have an end goal of bolstering growth, creating jobs and increasing American competitiveness while ending wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars and reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil. 

What might such a strategy look like?

A comprehensive energy policy would look similar to the energy resolution I introduced last session, which calls for expanding the use of renewable and alternative energy sources — when economically competitive — increasing our domestic refining capacity, promoting conservation and energy efficiency and expanding domestic exploration.

But the past three years indicate that his approach isn’t an “all-in” strategy. 

The Obama economy picks winners and losers through subsidies and blocks access to privately funded development of traditional sources of energy while regulating plants that provide low-cost electricity to families and small businesses out of existence.

Case in point: Solyndra, a government-backed solar panel maker, versus Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would bring 830,000 barrels per day of oil to the United States from Alberta, Canada. 

The Obama administration expedited the approval of a Department of Energy loan guarantee for Solyndra, a California solar company favored by Obama campaign contributors. Due to the speedy loan approval, and despite warnings from Department of Energy and Treasury officials, a number of risk factors were ignored. Now taxpayers are short $535 million, and 1,100 Americans lost their jobs after the company filed for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the president delayed and subsequently rejected a permit application for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that has been under review by administration officials for the past three years.

When Obama announced his Keystone XL decision in mid-January, he cited time constraints as the reason for rejecting the project. But when House Republicans passed the North American-Made Energy Security Act, a bill that required the president to make a decision on the Keystone XL permit application by November 2011, the Obama administration issued the following statement: “The bill is unnecessary because the Department of State has been working diligently to complete the permit decision process for the Keystone XL pipeline and has publicly committed to reaching a decision before December 31, 2011.”

The contrast between Solyndra and Keystone XL paints a clear picture of White House policies: Postpone decisions and scrap energy projects funded by the private sector while rushing approval for projects that win political favors with green enthusiasts and campaign contributors, regardless of the company’s market viability. 

By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama destroyed 20,000 new American manufacturing and construction jobs.

This means Canadian workers and Chinese firms, which are investing in the promise of energy security and jobs, will benefit instead of American workers. Also, there is now the likelihood that Canadian oil will be shipped to China — not the United States, where it would help lower energy bills for struggling families and small businesses, whose gas prices have doubled since Obama entered office. According to The Associated Press, “the typical American household … spent $4,155 filling up” in 2011 — “a record.”

But Americans shouldn’t be surprised by his actions, because Obama’s plan is not an “all-in” vision for U.S. energy. During the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Obama told editors at the San Francisco Chronicle that his plan was to make energy prices “skyrocket,” saying, “… under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Although a cap-and-trade plan is not in place, the president clearly continues to push its intent — to crack down on fossil fuels to increase the cost of power. 

To meet our nation’s growing long-term energy demands and maintain our economic viability in the world marketplace, Obama must embrace all of America’s energy resources. This must be done through actions, not words, if he expects to fuel the prosperity Americans seek for future generations. 

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