Scrapping the Obama Energy Playbook

For the past eight years, the Obama administration has been adamantly hostile to the nation’s energy industry. The administration has taken credit for booming U.S. energy production and its benefits, none of which came from government action; all resulted from energy sector investment and innovation.

From proposing an oil barrel tax, adding job-killing EPA regulations, slowing every permitting process, the administration made clear that President Barack Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy statements were as true as his “you can keep your doctor” promise for Obamacare. He also delayed a decision for years, on the Keystone Pipeline project, after repeated State Department approvals. He ultimately decided against the pipeline, admitting in his statement that it had been “overly politicized.” His “base,” favored the decision. For the US? For political gratification?  For whom?

Fortunately, given President-elect Donald Trump’s support of a broader energy policy, it seems clear that he does not adopt that playbook. That will be welcome news for the economy, the American people, and our nation’s energy security.  It is happening even before his presidency.

A new paper from the American Council for Capital Formation scrutinizes Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy that actually meant “keep it in the ground.” ACCF encourages Trump to pursue pro-growth energy policies that include all of our abundant resources. The paper “examines the Obama administration’s argument for shifting U.S. energy policy away from development of the nation’s abundant oil and natural gas when those resources have proven vital to the recovering economy” and explores the legal and regulatory avenues under which the administration implemented this shift despite — or maybe because of — lack of congressional support.

In less than 45 years (since 1973), the United States has made a remarkable transformation from energy scarcity to energy abundance. We are now the world’s leading producer of oil and gas — a long way from the days of gas shortages and gas lines. To not take advantage of this opportunity — and the resulting benefits – would be foolish, or worse.

The energy industry continues to be the favorite whipping boy for environmentalists and “progressive” voices, but it is a critical cog in the nation’s economic engine. The oil and gas industry supports nearly 10 million jobs with a $1.2 trillion impact on the nation’s gross domestic product in 2011.

The industry is also consistently named to the Progressive Policy Institute’s “Investment Heroes” annual list which identifies companies that invest domestically in buildings, equipment and software. In 2015, energy production companies, along with technology and internet companies, comprised 15 of the 25 companies on the list, accounting for 71 percent of the total investment. Those six energy companies had a $43.6 billion domestic capital expenditure — a 9 percent increase from the previous year.

Furthermore, as ACCF comments, “The ability to develop domestic oil and gas that was previously thought unrecoverable has reestablished the United States as a major energy producer, thus diminishing the influence and diversifying the supply of energy from the Middle East and Russia.” As a result, our allies need no longer depend on unstable, hostile sources for their energy needs.

Additionally, through 2014, the oil and gas industry reduced greenhouse gas emissions by “374 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent” with $90 billion invested in low-carbon technologies.

All signs indicate that our new president is well aware of these contributions from the industry and the need for a truly “all-of-the-above” for the nation’s energy strategy. As such, there is this piece of advice from the ACCF paper: “President-elect Trump should follow through on his campaign promises to reject the current administration’s policy of pursuing energy and climate policy through regulation. He should instead work with Congress to address the nation’s energy and conservation needs in a balanced way that does not jeopardize its economic competitiveness or security.” That’s a winning playbook for everyone.


Dr. Jack Rafuse is a former energy adviser in the Nixon administration, and heads the Rafuse Organization, an independent consultancy on energy, trade and security issues.

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