March 15, 2011
None of the Above on Energy
In terms of energy policy, as in so much else, the Obama administration is in leaderless disarray. The only thing it seems capable of doing is delaying and shutting down energy production. As soon as some promising new supply pops up, like the shale gas capable of fueling America for the next century, the Obama EPA is there launching an environmental study designed to regulate and restrict it. At the moment when new energy supplies are most needed, there are no plans to increase supplies -- only plans to reduce them. One would almost think that this President wants to bring America to its knees.
Meanwhile, for the Chinese and other fast-growing economies, it's full speed ahead on new energy projects. Chinese oil companies are pursuing new oil and gas exploration on a global scale, even in the mainland U.S. They are buying up oil and gas leases in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America, including just offshore Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
But China is not limiting its options to petroleum. It is acquiring vast reserve of coal, importing U.S. coal that environmentalists have put off-limits to electric utilities in the United States and securing ownership of coal mines in Australia, Asia, and Latin America. The purchase of Felix Resources by China's Yanzhou Coal in December 2009 was the largest coal acquisition in Australian history, but it was by no means the last. Asian buyers are now competing for another big prize: Whitehaven Coal. Soon, even if American policymakers were to wake up to the threat we face, there will be no more major coal properties available for purchase.
The situation with uranium supplies is equally dire. At present the U.S. is the largest nuclear energy producer in the world, but China is out to change that. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, China plans to build 60 large nuclear reactors by the end of this decade, and it is acquiring the uranium necessary to fuel these facilities along with its existing plants. Chinese state-owned companies are bidding on uranium-rich companies around the world, including Kalahari Minerals, owner of large uranium deposits in Namibia.
In response, the Obama administration has not approved a single one among the pending 21 applications for new nuclear facilities in the U.S. With no action on the part of regulators, American companies are loath to acquire rights to new supplies of uranium. They have been largely absent from bidding for the world's remaining supplies.
This review is not intended as a criticism of China, which is simply pursuing the kind of coherent, long-range energy policy that is lacking at present in the U.S. China is acting in the rational self-interest of its people, and its people will reap the reward of this effort in the decades ahead.
Obama's policy, on the other hand, is simply "none of the above." America will also reap the rewards of its energy policy under Obama and Energy Secretary Chu. With no additional nuclear facilities under development, with the withering away of domestic coal-power production, and with no access to major new Alaskan and offshore oil supplies, America faces a future energy shock of unprecedented proportions. Once the effects of Obama's restrictions on drilling begin to be felt, today's gas prices are going to seem like a blue-light special.
The question is, why does Obama want to forestall access to so many of our energy resources just at the moment when gas prices are hitting $4 a gallon and experts are predicting they will go higher? Either the President is out of his mind, or he is intent on wrecking our future. Since spiraling gas prices are also going to hinder Obama's re-election, it is a difficult question to answer. The truth may be that he just hasn't thought about it. He's too busy shooting hoops and hosting rappers like Jay-Z in the White House Situation Room.
Unless reversed by a conservative president and Congress following 2012, Obama's failed energy policy will have devastating consequences. Americans will pay much higher prices for energy in the future, as high as $12 a gallon for gas and four times the current price of about 15 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. More important yet, high energy prices will sap economic growth, and slower growth will result in structurally high unemployment, declining living standards, and a weakening of our national defense. Maybe this is what Obama wants -- I believe that it is -- but it is not what most Americans hope to see.
Slow growth and a weakened military may not seem like such an awful fate to the fashionable idiots on the left. It is, in fact, exactly what they are seeking: an America brought to its knees, one weak little nation among many, no more powerful or influential than Bolivia or Peru. A nation that sits happily on the sidelines of history, content to consume its "fair share" of the earth's resources and live at the average level of the world's economy, somewhere between Nigeria and Moldova.
That is the happy future that Obama has in mind for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A pair of plastic sandals and a government-issued bike for transport, a bowl of rice for supper, a three-month wait for a visit to the physician's assistant, and a hundred-square-foot apartment with a wall screen permanently tuned to MSNBC.
There are some Americans who are born communists -- those who fancy the Mao suit, the masochistic fall-into-line mentality, the fondness for self-abasement and diminishment. These natural-born comrades, eager to hand over their liberties to some vicious and inscrutable dictator, must like what they see in Obama. The rest of us will continue fighting to preserve our liberties.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and article on American culture.