Put the Permanently Furloughed Private-Sector Employees Back to Work

Put the Permanently Furloughed Private-Sector Employees Back to Work

On November 8, in New Orleans, President Obama talked about improving the U.S. economy. He addressed the already forgotten government shutdown: “there’s no question that the shutdown harmed our jobs market. The unemployment rate still ticked up. And we don’t yet know all the data for this final quarter of the year, but it could be down because of what happened in Washington.”

Yes, 850,000 furloughed federal employees may have tipped the scales, but really they got a free 16-day vacation. They were, ultimately, all paid.

Obama wants to blame the federal furloughs on the Republicans—and there may well be fault there. But what about the thousands of jobs that have been lost due to the policies of his administration?

Because of what happens in Washington, thousands—if not millions—of private-sector employees have, effectively, been permanently furloughed and/or potential new jobs have not been created.

EPA regulations are shutting down nearly 300 coal-fired power plants across the U.S.

In Massachusetts, the closure of Brayton Point Power Station will cost 240 jobs. The closure of coal-fired plants in Georgia will result in the loss of 480 jobs.

In Congressman Tim Murphy’s (R-PA) district the closure of two plants has resulted in the loss of 380 jobs. He laments: “The front line in the administration’s war on coal is right here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and the casualties are the factories and homeowners, who will pay higher electric bills, as well as the hundreds of utility workers, boilermakers, and miners who will be out of work. With the shutdown of the Mitchell plant and Hatfield’s Ferry, which just four short years ago underwent $1 billion in upgrades, the president is making good on his promise to ‘bankrupt’ anyone who operates a coal plant.”

These closures result in jobs lost at the power stations and the surrounding communities, but they—along with additional EPA regulations—also cause the loss of jobs at the coal mines.

Addressing the Mitchell and Hatfield’s Ferry plants, Phil Smith, a spokesperson for the United Mine Workers of America, said: “It’s clearly going to have bad implications for coal miners.”

According to a report in the Herald-Standard, about a quarter of the coal-fired plants that have been closed, or are scheduled for shutdown, buys, or has bought, coal from Alpha Natural Resources. Company spokesperson Samatha Davison states: “By all indications, regulators in Washington are intent on limiting the production and use of coal, the most abundant domestic energy source we have in America. With that said, this is another example of how the EPA regulations are impacting the electricity-generation business and the coal industry.”

Much of the coal comes from Kentucky. Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association, told me about the loss of thousands of jobs as a result of EPA regulations: “Eastern Kentucky has lost more than 6,000 direct coal-mining jobs. For every one direct mining job lost, three other Kentuckians lose their livelihoods with the loss of indirect jobs. Beyond this loss of direct and indirect employment, you also have the loss of what is called induced jobs, which are unrelated directly to the mining of coal, but negatively impact automobile dealerships, restaurants and anywhere these former direct and indirect employees spent their paychecks.”

The Obama Administration’s impact on jobs goes beyond coal-fired power plants and coal mines. It also hits the oil-and-gas industry, which, even in its fettered condition, is largely responsible for private sector job growth. A recent EIA report states that from the start of 2007 through the end of 2012, total U.S. private sector employment increased by about 1%. “Over the same period, the oil and natural gas industry increased by more than 162,000 jobs, a 40% increase.” But there could be much more.

Before the Macondo Well accident, analysts expected 45 rigs to be operating in the Gulf by 2013. In a recent investors’ report, the International Strategy & Investment Group said: “After essentially being left for dead following the devastating Macondo blowout, we believe the deepwater Gulf of Mexico is in the early stages of an extended growth cycle.” Only 38% of deepwater reserves are currently producing oil, while an additional 60% are in appraisal, development, or discovery status. Today there are 40 rigs currently under contract in the gulf.

While drilling permits are being issued in the gulf, the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) confirmed that it now takes on average 108 days to get an offshore drilling permit, twice as long as the average 54 days it took pre-Macondo.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act (H.R. 2231), which directs the Secretary of the Interior to “implement a leasing program that includes at least 50% of the available unleased acreage within each Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) planning area…”

Regarding H.R. 2231, Randall Luthi, President of NOIA, issued a statement that includes: “Opening up more of our OCS to energy exploration makes good sense and even better cents, adding thousands of domestic jobs and potentially billions of dollars in state and Federal revenues.”

A report released last month from the Consumer Energy Alliance found that more than 10,000 new jobs could be created if exploration and production were to take place in just the mid-Atlantic region of the OCS.

Yet, a statement from the White House starts with: “The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2231.” And ends with: “If the President were presented with H.R. 2231, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

President Obama wants to blame bad job numbers on “what happened in Washington”—as if he has no responsibility for the results. Yes, America’s job numbers are as a result of what happens in Washington—but the blame falls squarely on the White House’s energy policies.

The energy industry is ready to put people to work, add revenues to the federal coffers, and fix the trade deficit. But the Obama Administration needs to take its boot off of the neck of the energy industry and encourage all domestic energy—not just that belonging to his cronies.

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