Vetoing bipartisan energy, job and economic growth
By Paul Driessen
New Republican members were still being sworn in and expressing their desire for bipartisan initiatives, when President Obama said he would veto the Keystone pipeline, ObamaCare fixes and other bills that run counter to his agenda. Washington's new "common ground" will be a tricky, dangerous swamp.
Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil prices are below $50 per barrel, for the first time since 2009, and natural gas has dropped below $3 per million Btu (or thousand cubic feet). That's bad news for Iran, Russia, Venezuela and ISIS, but great news for energy users. Motorists will save billions of dollars in gasoline costs; families, factories, hospitals, schools and malls will save billions on heating and electricity bills; and industries that are energy-intensive or use hydrocarbons as raw materials will reap huge benefits.
However, drilling and oilfield service companies are being squeezed by high production rates, low prices and excessive loans; some overcapitalized companies may go bankrupt. Slow global economic growth is reducing demand for American goods and services, and investors are pulling out of "emerging markets."
Thankfully, most fracking companies are agile and creative. Their technological innovations have driven completion and production costs steadily downward, allowing them to produce oil, gas liquids and natural gas (methane) from many formations at costs low enough to make a profit even at today's prices (or lower). When demand picks up and prices again rise, companies can drill and frack new wells or reopen old ones in shale regions within mere weeks, to meet increasing energy needs.
But now EPA is proposing new rules for conventional and fracked wells. The White House claims the rules are needed to reduce emissions of methane, which it calls a "potent greenhouse gas" that contributes to "dangerous climate change." The real goal is to put federal bureaucrats in charge of fracking and production on state and private lands, now that they have made most federal lands off limits to drilling.
The proposed rulemaking ignores reality. Total U.S. methane emissions have already plunged 11% since 1990, and companies constantly implement technologies and procedures to reduce emissions of valuable natural gas from wells and pipelines. That has caused emissions related to drilling and transportation to plummet, even as natural gas drilling, fracking, production, pipelining and use have skyrocketed.
Mr. Obama's fossil fuel obstructionism will further harm blue-collar families. His own State Department concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline project alone would create 50,000 jobs: 10,000 in construction; 16,000 providing pipe, valves, heavy equipment, hotel rooms and other goods and services directly related to the project; and 26,000 "indirect" jobs supported by primary and secondary workers spending their KXL wages in other sectors of the economy. Some 70% of Americans support building it.
These jobs may only be what the President derisively calls "temporary." But that is the nature of all such jobs. You just need a steady stream of new projects to keep construction and factory workers employed for decades – versus the "permanent" jobs the President seems to prefer: for bureaucrats who stifle other job creation or decree that only "renewable energy" jobs merit creation via taxpayer or borrowed money.
Blocking Keystone will also increase shipments of U.S. and Canadian oil via RR cars owned by Mr. Obama's friend, Warren Buffet. That could mean more rail accidents and deaths. Proposed rules for retrofitting rail tankers for crash and puncture resistance will take years to implement, forcing oil to be shipped in trucks on our crowded highways in the meantime. Congress needs to approve Keystone.
The President may now favor allowing some processed U.S. oil to be exported. But his agencies are preparing numerous new rules that will undermine bipartisan energy, job and economic growth initiatives. The Competitive Enterprise Institute says they are considering 2,375 new rules this year – on top of 3,541 regulations approved in 2014. The total price tag for complying with federal rules: $1.9 trillion per year!
EPA has delayed its latest climate change regulations until summer, but they will likely require that coal-fueled power plants slash carbon dioxide emissions by 30% or close down. Since no affordable or proven technology exists to achieve this, the rule will shutter numerous power plants and cost some 600,000 jobs in states that rely on coal for reliable, affordable electricity. Moreover, as my Climate Hype Exposed report makes clear, the rules will do absolutely nothing to "stabilize" Earth's always fickle climate.
President Obama's determination to lock the United States and other countries into a binding new climate change treaty will magnify the damage many times over. First, developing nations like China and India must merely agree to try at some future date to make some efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Other countries can walk away from treaty obligations that become too burdensome. That will penalize the United States as almost the only nation required to abide by its suicidal climate agreements.
Second, few (formerly) rich countries will ever honor their supposed commitments to provide billions of dollars a year for climate change "adaptation" and "mitigation" – and those contributions will never come anywhere near the $100 billion per year that poor developing countries are demanding as their price for signing a treaty. Third, most of this money will end up in Swiss bank accounts of kleptocratic African, UN and other dictators, bureaucrats, politicians, activists and corporatists. The poor will get nothing.
Fourth, most of this promised aid – as well as OPIC, World Bank and other loans and grants – comes with the proviso that the money be used only for wind, solar and biofuel projects. Poor countries will be prevented from building coal or gas power plants to lift billions out of poverty via reliable, affordable electricity. Billions of people will remain trapped in poverty, misery, disease and early death – with improved education, healthcare, jobs, food, clean water and sanitation remaining largely out of reach.
What can the new Republican Congress do in the face of the President's ideological intransigence?
* Pass Keystone pipeline legislation and bills promoting expanded leasing and drilling on federal lands.
* End abuses detailed in the Senate Staff Report, Chains of Environmental Command, and other studies that reveal how Big Green colludes with federal agencies to impose job-killing policies and regulations. Hold hearings and question agency heads under oath. Root out collusion between agencies and activists, sweetheart sue-and-settle lawsuits, and other agency misconduct, deceit and fraud in devising regulations. Apply the same ethics and integrity rules to them that they impose on us.
* Employ budget reductions, budget restrictions and specific legislative language to: block regulations that do not pass Information Quality Act standards of transparency, integrity and scientific analysis; end payoffs to advisory panels and pressure groups; and prohibit EPA from expanding its mission and personnel by launching sustainable development, "environmental justice" and climate programs.
* Require that EPA and other agencies fully and honestly assess the potentially harmful effects that their regulations are likely to have on jobs and human health and well-being – and subject proposed rulemakings to review by industry and other independent outside experts – before rules can be implemented. Alleged benefits of rules must clearly exceed their monetary, job, health and welfare costs.
* Require congressional approval of any "major" regulatory actions likely to cost $100 million or more – and periodic assessments of the cumulative costs of all federal regulations.
* Prohibit the Executive Branch from spending taxpayer funds on climate change "adaptation/mitigation" payments to developing countries, until all other countries make binding pledges and we have proof of manmade climate change. Ban requirements that grants be used solely for renewable energy projects.
* Use vetoes and Democratic obstinacy to underscore the need for more pro-growth and environmental-balance candidates in 2016 congressional and presidential elections – by showing leadership and responsible alternatives to eight years of Reid, Pelosi and Obama obstruction and job destruction.
State governors, legislatures, courts and AGs should do likewise – and voters should demand nothing less.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.