SOTU: Taking Credit, Assigning Blame, Promises Not Kept

In fulfilling his obligation under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution to periodically report to Congress, this week the President gave his annual State of the Union Address (SOTU) that made one yearn for the time when this was delivered as a letter to Congress, instead of a speech. According to Nielsen only 31.3 million people watched the speech, one of the smallest audiences to date, yet a number that is apparently typical for outgoing Presidents. (In contrast, over 52 million people watched the SOTU in 2009).

All presidents take credit for things they don’t really accomplish. However it is with some irony, that the president took credit for, “Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.” (A line certainly written by some under paid White House speechwriter who actually buys gas.)

It’s true, according to the Energy Information Administration, that the national average price for gasoline is $1.99 per gallon, but it is highly doubtful this administration can take credit for making it happen. Prices at the pump have dropped as a result of booming oil and natural gas production on state and private lands while production on federal lands has dropped significantly.

Booming oil production should make the president the “Best Friend of Oil”, a headline certainly unwelcomed by the president’s many big green environmental advisors. In fact, last week saw the first U.S. oil exports in 40 years from the Texas Eagle Ford Shale (thanks to fracking) to Germany. The exports are the result of the president recently signing the $1.5 Trillion omnibus bill. ConocoPhillips predicts that volumes could reach 2 million barrels per day. Yet, big oil is cutting back as per barrel prices dip below $30 for the first time since 2003. BP said it would lay off about 4,000 workers. Even the Times of London said, “petrol may soon be cheaper than water.”

One thing that is clear, however, is the administration’s policy to regulate out-of-existence coal mining and the use of coal in energy production. While the climate benefits of these actions are questionable, they have had a clear impact on coal communities, families and associated industries that rely on the production and use of this plentiful, efficient, natural energy source. For example, the railroad company CSX reported this week that its fourth-quarter revenue fell again by 13% as a result of the 32% drop in coal volume. As a consequence, the company will lay off more employees. It is no surprise that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s guest at the SOTU was an unemployed coal miner.

“Even though the President probably won’t know this unemployed coal miner was in the audience tonight, I wanted him to have to face the results of his policies,” said McConnell. “We have a depression in central Appalachia, eastern Kentucky, and West Virginia as a result of the president’s policies.”

Thanks to the fine work of House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop we know that, often, what is said in a SOTU does not come to pass. For example, in 2010 the president said, “You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy – in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.” Yet, the truth was the battery company, Enerdel, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012 after receiving a $118 million U.S. Energy Department grant and Solyndra, the California business, received a $535 million loan guarantee from the government before going bankrupt in 2011.

Then in 2012 the President said, “tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” Yet facts show that since 2012, the administration has taken a number of actions to restrict future offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean and slow walked all the permitting for offshore development in the Atlantic. The House Resources Committee reports that just 2% of our nation’s offshore is currently under lease. The Interior Department has closed off millions of acres of public lands and waters to American energy production, offered the fewest offshore lease sales in the history of the program, and caused energy production on federal lands to significantly decline.

Thank the private sector, not government, for $2 per gallon gas.

The Honorable Doug Domenech is the Director of the Fueling Freedom Project at TPPF.

Morning Consult