Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A Cross of Shale

Tim from Colorado e-mails on the recent revelation of the EPA’s real motives:

How disappointing it is, but not surprising, that the mainstream media has virtually ignored the comments and resignation of Al Armendariz, the EPA Administrator for Region 6:

At a local Texas government meeting in 2010, Mr. Armendariz compared his policy enforcement strategy against oil and gas companies to that of the Romans, who would enter a town and crucify a few of those that put up resistance, bringing the others in-line. Mr. Armendariz believed the EPA should employ the same strategy against oil and gas exploration companies, and in particular to Range Resources (whom the EPA has recently decided to drop their claims against). Under Mr. Armendariz’s direction, the EPA has accused Range Resources and others of contamination of air and water in the development of gas wells using fracturing techniques.

Mr. Armendariz may have resigned, but I don’t think for a second that this crucifixion culture within the EPA followed him out the door. Remember in 2008 then-candidate Obama openly admitted “if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” So the precedent was set four years ago. Forgive me if I seem dubious that the Obama Administration has publicly stated that Mr. Armendariz’s comments do not represent the EPA as a whole; I think that not only do his comments represent the EPA’s views, they also represent the Obama Administration’s views. Mr. Armendariz was an Obama appointee, not some EPA underling who wasn’t fully vetted.

In a nutshell, here’s what the Obama Administration is doing to the fossil fuels industries. Despite renewable-energy advocate’s claims otherwise, solar power and wind generation are not new technologies; wind generators have been around since the 30’s and the first solar cell was developed in the mid-50’s. The problem with renewable energy technologies is that they are not cost-competitive with conventional generation like coal-fired power plants, natural gas combustion turbines, and nuclear plants, and in your and my lifetime this will be ever so. But that’s a point lost on the renewable energy crowd. Obama is dumping billions into renewable technologies to try and make them competitive, and thus far there is little to show for the money that’s been spent.

So if you can’t make a technology cost competitive with competing technologies on one end, what can you do? You can make the competing technologies cost-prohibitive. That is exactly how the Obama Administration is shoving wind and solar technology down our throats. Obama is in favor of carbon taxes because it will make coal-fired generation more expensive, and he can arbitrarily fix the tax to bring the cost of coal-fired generation up to wherever the limit is with wind and solar generation. But now these meddlesome oil and gas companies have found an innovative way to make natural gas more available and less expensive than ever before, which makes natural gas combustion turbines attractive to power companies, so how does the Obama Administration deal with that? Simple; they’ll use the EPA to level unfounded claims that the fracturing technique causes ground water and air pollution violations, and make oil and gas companies spend millions of dollars in fines and defending their process in a court of law. I would bet if you water-boarded one of these EPA higher-ups (am I the only one that would like to see that?), they would admit that they would prefer that the fracturing techniques were outlawed all-together.

For these reasons I think the Keystone XL Pipeline project was resisted by the Obama Administration because the Canadian oil supply would help stabilize oil prices in the U.S. and allow Americans to continue driving the dreaded SUV, the mother-of-all-boogeyman for the environmental left. If you think I’m crazy, just remember Energy Secretary Chu’s comments that he thinks gas in the U.S. should be $6-$8 per gallon. If the Obama Administration can’t get the market to drive the price there by restricting crude oil supplies, I’ll bet you a future tank of gas for a tank today that they’ll find a reason to levy taxes to get it to that level.

The EPA stopped serving the interests of the public welfare long ago. If Romney wins the election this year, one of his top-five goals should be to establish congressional oversight of the EPA.

One of the often overlooked realities of American political life is that the real power of the presidency doesn’t lie with the president’s ability to push legislation through Congress or rally the citizenry by using the much ballyhooed “bully pulpit.” Rather, it’s the power to drive the behavior of myriad agencies like the EPA when it comes to regulation and enforcement. And the actions undertaken by these agencies are often not openly debated or discussed. Mr. Armendariz’s comments about crucifying oil and gas companies were an all too rare glimpse into the mindset that is pervasive among Obama appointees. That’s the real power of the presidency.