Policy Documents

US Needs Energy Actions As Well As Words

Bernard Weinstein –
March 26, 2012

President Barack Obama has been hitting back at critics of his administration’s energy policy. Last week, against backdrops of drilling rigs, pump jacks, and stacked pipeline sections in New Mexico and Oklahoma, he noted the big jumps in oil and natural gas production over the past three years as an indication of his commitment to an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. He also proclaimed he would expedite construction of the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline.

With gasoline prices rising, and an election on the horizon, it’s no surprise that Mr. Obama is talking about energy. But is it more than words? Has the President really embraced oil and natural gas as part of his long-term energy policy? The evidence is scant.

This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on legislation to repeal billions of tax deductions for big oil companies with the additional revenues used to finance extension of renewable tax credits. What’s more, President Obama wants to raise the current $7,500 purchase incentive for electric cars to $10,000. (Of course since no one is stepping up to buy the Chevy Volt with a $7500 rebate, it’s unlikely an additional $2500 incentive will do much, if anything, to spur sales. At least there’s no burden on taxpayers).

As for Keystone, Presidential approval wasn’t actually required to build the leg from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. If Mr. Obama can actually do something to accelerate its construction, that would help relieve the bottleneck at Cushing and allow Texas and Louisiana refineries to process domestic crude as opposed to imports from Venezuela and Mexico. But connecting the oil sands of Alberta to the U.S. crude oil distribution network is the most critical part of Keystone XL, and that project has been deferred indefinitely.

President Obama’s newly-found enthusiasm for oil, gas and Keystone-South is to be welcomed. But it must be followed with action if we’re to enhance America’s long-term energy security while boosting the nation’s economic growth.