Obama a Threat to Low Cost Gas

Obama a Threat to Low Cost Gas

If it is possible to kill the layer of the golden egg, that is low natural gas prices, you can count on the Obama administration to find a way.

Natural gas prices are at record lows because of soaring production from areas such as the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania. This is a boon for consumers and for energy-intensive industries whose lower costs offer hope to a struggling economy.

Enter President Obama April 13 to issue an executive order establishing an Interagency Working Group to Support the Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources.

The length of the name is enough to alert any supporter of a vibrant industry to trouble. Obama’s creation has a moniker of 16 words and not a single one resembles “economic”. Never mind “profitable”.

The group will be made up of representatives from 13 organizations and “such other agencies or offices as the Chair may invite to participate.” Named so far are the departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Energy and Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council.

The EPA has been trying to insinuate itself into the regulation of natural gas development in Pennsylvania even though the state has a robust regulatory program of its own. Now EPA will have at least a dozen other agencies to help it impede the production of this form of energy.

The federal government has slowed oil drilling, has stymied the construction of an oil pipeline and is well along in killing coal-fired electricity generation.

We can only speculate on the motives of the federal government, but it must be frustrating for Obama to witness a fossil-based energy industry thrive through the ingenuity of free enterprise and the competence of private companies.

Cheap natural gas is not consistent with the President’s vision of high-cost fossil energy competing with high-cost solar and wind energy. And then there is the environmental lobby that peddles falsehoods about the safety of energy development to a Luddite bureaucracy ever in search of its purpose.

Industry’s response has been timid: “As the inter-agency’s panel begins its work, we remain eager to provide real-time, on-the-ground insight in an effort that common sense regulations are in place, which is essential to leveraging the countless benefits of America’s natural gas resources,” said the Marcellus Shale Coalition in a statement.

This may be an industry harboring a false hope for good faith on the part of federal regulators. It is more likely the reaction of an industry living in fear.

Companies developing the Marcellus Shale are among the most successful in the world. But theirs is a risky business. Profits can be fleeting. Recently, some companies suspended drilling in areas of Pennsylvania because low gas prices have made production a losing proposition.

Add the risk of 13 agencies – and counting – with the power to litigate the largest company into misery and a smaller company into oblivion, and you get a long statement from a meek industry at a loss for a fighting word.

If everybody were telling the truth, the dialogue would go something like this:

President Obama: “I am ordering my various departments of gangsters to force natural gas prices so high that solar and wind energy might – with a few billion dollars of subsidies – make money for my campaign donors.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition: “We are prevented from calling the President the thug that he is out of a need to protect our stockholders from the threat of financial ruin. We choose to appease him until he goes away.”

The record of appeasement in influencing bullies is a sorry one. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, along with many others, say nothing as the federal attack on coal leads to the closings of coal-fired generating plants.

We are left to wonder: Will the President go away with the November election? Or will he transform the U.S. into a third-world country of Don Quixotes chasing windmills for lighting and hot water?

Gordon Tomb is an energy writer and director of communications for the PA Coalition for Responsible Government. He can be reached at gwtomb@gmail.com
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© 2013 Energy Tribune

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