White House Misses the Energy Message
In a politically polarized climate there seems to be little upon which most Americans can agree. But everyone seems to concur that the prices at the pump are too high-even though they have dipped slightly, and that expensive energy drags down a struggling economy.
Even Congress has heard the voice of the people but the White House is still pushing policy that is certain to pump up prices.
In recent history, one prevailing thought has been preeminent when it comes to America’s energy: climate change crisis. Policy has been centered around the idea that the climate is changing and that this is a crisis caused by man’s use of hydrocarbons and that if we’d quit using hydrocarbons all would be well with the world. This philosophy has been out there long enough that most now dismiss it as the scares have not happened.
Congress did not pass the climate-change based cap and trade legislation-despite Obama’s campaign promise. The House has passed several bills designed to increase domestic energy production. Just last week the Senate stood against the wishes of the White House and didn’t pass a bill that would have increased energy production costs resulting in higher prices for consumers.
In the heat of the climate change debate, back when the science was “settled,” policies were passed and positions were popular that increased the cost of energy. Remember the Pickens’ Plan? He touted a combo of wind farms and natural gas as the solution to America’s supposed energy problem. His plan included natural gas, as natural gas-fueled power plants are the most effective back-up for intermittent wind energy. With the prospect of higher natural gas use, the price shot up.
Around that same time, many states-more than half-enacted legislation to regulate the energy sources for their particular state. Most require a growing percentage of renewable energy with 20% by 2020 being typical. Now utility companies are grappling with how to provide this energy cost-effectively and it’s not working-meeting the mandates goes over the cost caps. Consumers are already squawking over increased energy costs, imagine what will happen if these mandates are not reversed.
Something as simple as an oil change is impacted. Plan A is a traditional oil change and costs X amount of dollars. Plan B is $5 more, but the oil is either “synthetic oil” or “half crude, half recycled”-”green” they call it. The Valvoline website describes their “NextGen” oil as “helping reduce everyone”s carbon footprint.” At least there you have a choice to pay more for “green.”
The climate change message has become such a curse that Newt Gingrich’s agreement with Nancy Pelosi that America must take action to address climate change-as featured in a 2008 political ad-is perceived to be a bigger problem for his presidential run than his infidelities and multiple marriages.
Even environmental groups are acknowledging that they have lost the climate change debate and need to repackage their efforts.
But the White House has missed the message. Having failed at getting cap and trade through Congress, the president is trying to achieve the same thing through Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Once again, Congress is pushing back and passing bills with the potential to limit the EPA’s power. Believing that petroleum is bad, “yesterday’s energy,” administration policies hurt domestic production while subsidizing costly renewable energy. As natural gas prices went up with the climate change message and dropped with its disposal-coupled with the discovery of increased resources-oil prices could drop with a change in messaging from the White House and additional exploration. Mid-east unrest upsets the status quo with potential supply disruptions resulting in price spikes, yet President Obama’s message to the region supports change instead of stability. In his commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School, he encouraged students to get an education, saying good jobs at factories were no longer available. But he missed the message that higher energy costs have contributed to the loss of factory jobs and record unemployment. Many factories have closed, moved, or are moving, offshore where costs are lower.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, then-candidate Clinton hammered President Bush with the message, “It’s the economy, stupid“-which is credited with turning the election in his favor. Now, twenty years later, Republicans who hope to win the 2012 election need to resurrect a modified version of the ’92 message: “It’s about energy, stupid.” After all, in the end, energy will be the ultimate commodity. Mr. President, how will high energy prices help the economy?