With gasoline prices near $4 a gallon in a sluggish economy, it's no surprise that energy policy is a major theme for the Obama administration. The president put energy policy at the center of his State of the Union speech this year, and on a recent trip to Brazil, energy was his main message.
"We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely," the president told Brazilians. "And when you're ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers."
What? Could this really be the same president who's made it as difficult as possible for oil companies to tap our reserves right here at home? How nice of Obama to encourage the creation of jobs in Brazil - at the same time his anti-energy agenda is displacing them here in the United States.
This isn't the first example of Obama's seemingly schizophrenic approach to energy. At a recent press conference seeking to reassure the public about increasing gas prices, the president vowed that the United States would be "producing more oil and importing less." But actions speak louder than words, and this administration is hiding its opposition to increased energy production behind empty promises and platitudes.
Let's take a look at what his government is actually doing.
Obama's knee-jerk shut-down on deep-water drilling in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the most obvious way he's limited the home team. The blanket ban went on for months, despite the fact that most Americans still supported offshore drilling. A U.S. District judge then rejected the moratorium, but no permits emerged. Last month, that same judge issued an order insisting that the Interior Department process offshore drilling applications in a timelier manner, finding the delays were "increasingly inexcusable." A few permits resulted, but the ban, which technically expired last November, has rightfully come to be known by the name "permitorium."
Oil isn't the only consumer friendly energy source that Obama is trying to keep from Americans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing punitive orders in its multi-front attack against coal. In January, the EPA took the unusual step of revoking a coal-mining permit granted two years before by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Arch Coal in West Virginia - potentially scuttling a $250 million investment and killing 250 jobs.
The oil and natural gas sector provides more than 9.2 million jobs around the country. But Obama is hobbling the industry with delays and bans, while directing government subsidies into artificial, bubble "green jobs." The 2009 economic stimulus package gave renewable energy companies direct grants totaling $16.8 billion, while the fossil fuels were left (as they should be) with only marketplace (nontaxpayer) support.
A job that requires taxpayer funding offers no real improvement to our employment problem. A job supported by the market, on the other hand, is a real contribution.
Witness North Dakota's unemployment rate - the lowest in the country. The state actually has a worker shortage, and hasn't had a budget shortfall in the last four years. That's the result of its thriving petroleum industry. But Obama ignores what's working, preferring to focus on green mirages that have failed in the past and show little prospect in the future.
To reassure a public concerned about gasoline prices, Obama has raised the political palliative of releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But such quick fixes misdirect the debate from the real deal: higher flows of homegrown oil from ongoing development. We have plenty of oil and the good jobs that come with it - if only the president would end the backdoor war on oil and gas resourceship and let freedom ring.
Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research and author of six books on energy history and public policy.