Right now, voters across the country are mobilizing around an issue that could determine who wins the 2012 presidential election: energy.
The rising cost of gasoline has influenced the American people to do a double-take on President Barack Obama’s overall energy policy. In light of this election-year scrutiny, it’s no surprise that Obama has tried to defend and define his administration’s energy policy.
But under the public’s watchful eye, the president is continually contradicting himself inside the Beltway and on the campaign trail. Obama calls to expedite infrastructure projects, but in the wake of rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama claims increased oil and natural gas production on his watch, but then follows up with accusations that oil companies are profiting at the expense of the American people. Obama repeatedly calls for an “all of the above” energy strategy, but then singles out the oil and natural gas industry for new regulations and targeted tax attacks.
Something doesn’t add up. To discover Obama’s real feelings and policies toward American-made energy, we must look to areas that the administration actually has jurisdiction over: public lands, federal agencies and his own calls for legislative action.
Responsible, common-sense regulations on development are a foundation of the oil and natural gas industry’s operations — and rightly so. Protecting the environment and developing our resources must go hand in hand. But right now, under the Obama administration, there are not two, not three, but 11 federal agencies seeking to regulate, study and reassess oil and natural gas production in the United States.
The Environmental Protection Agency, for its part, has been acting like an all-around bully; doing everything it can to smother the industry with one-size-fits-all regulations from Washington, D.C. It disregards the states’ impressive history of successful regulation of hydraulic fracturing. Also, the EPA has been using American tax dollars to conduct studies that distort scientific results to accuse the oil and natural gas industry of harming the environment. These studies have ignored the industry’s incredibly safe record and serve as a rallying cry for the president’s environmental base.
Obama’s State Department rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from our neighbor Canada and alleviate the oil bottleneck that is causing problems for U.S. producers in Cushing, Okla., and refiners on the Gulf Coast.
And the American people are not amused. A recent Gallup poll revealed that Americans favor the Keystone XL pipeline by a ratio of 2-to-1. On the campaign trail recently, the president tried to backtrack, urging expedited work on the southern leg of Keystone. No matter that his administration has no jurisdiction on this issue: The southern portion of the pipeline could and would have continued without his approval.
Do his federal agencies’ brakes on development mean that Obama is fundamentally hostile to oil and natural gas as fuel sources? The president’s major rebuttal to this claim involves pointing to increased production under his administration. It’s true that the United States is experiencing an impressive increase in oil and natural gas development. But these huge gains are happening because of the advanced technologies U.S. producers utilize on private and state lands, where his federal agencies have limited jurisdiction.
On the other hand, Obama’s record on public lands — where his administration does have control — is far from stellar. Oil and natural gas production on public lands has decreased significantly under his watch. The Interior Department institutes duplicative and expensive regulations that make it impossible for many independent oil and natural gas producers, small American businesses that employ 12 people on average, to conduct business on public lands.
The president’s own punitive legislative proposals offer a stark contrast to his pro-development rhetoric. Obama repeatedly calls on Congress to repeal the “subsidies” that oil companies receive. However, these are neither subsidies nor government handouts. These are typical business deductions, such as labor and construction costs, which many industries have. These provisions, namely intangible drilling costs and percentage depletion, encourage new development of American energy. Eliminating them is a sure way to decrease energy supply and stunt job creation. Singling out the most productive, creative energy industry for targeted tax attacks certainly does not sound like an “all of the above” strategy for U.S. energy.
A recent poll revealed 68 percent of Americans disagree with the way Obama is handling gasoline prices. The public may be taking note of Obama’s energy policy contradictions. The 2012 election may rest upon the question: Can Obama have his energy cake and eat it, too?
Barry Russell is president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
March 27, 2012 | 9:30 p.m.
Standing at a podium in front of piles of pipes in Cushing, Okla., last week, President Obama unveiled an executive order meant to speed federal permitting of pipeline infrastructure, including the southern portion of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Critics immediately jumped on the move, accusing Obama of being “the rooster taking credit for the dawn” and arguing that no federal action is actually needed for that portion of the Keystone pipeline to move forward. National Journal’s Energy & Environment Insiders agree.
More than 70 percent of Insiders said that Obama’s executive order was unnecessary, with some even saying the move smacks of federal overreach.
Insiders overwhelmingly agreed that the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from Cushing to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, only needs local approval. States typically handle the siting of interstate oil pipelines, while the only federal involvement normally comes from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Obama’s involvement in the approval process is “not even remotely necessary,” said one Insider, arguing that Obama’s campaign likely thought it was “politically necessary to invent an executive action to [stanch] the coming decline in the polls.”
The Cushing campaign stop came just a day after Gallup released a poll showing that nearly 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. government should approve the entire Keystone project, which Obama rejected in late January.
“The Cushing event was all show … but a well-executed one,” said another Insider.
Still, by rejecting the permit for the full pipeline—which would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast—and then going full-force in supporting the southern section of the pipeline, Obama is sending out inconsistent messages to the public, Insiders said.
“This is a local permitting decision. The president getting involved looks like federal government interfering in the traditionally local decision of land-use planning—and it likely won’t actually change the permitting process, which is already under way,” said one Insider. “Not great optics—and I say this as a fan of the president.”
Even some of the 29 percent of Insiders who said the Obama administration should be involved argued that it is not legally necessary but noted that it is politically important.
“It is necessary in a political sense, to demonstrate that the administration is doing everything it can to lower high gas prices,” said one Insider. “But even without the administration’s involvement, the southern portion of Keystone will get built and, shockingly, gas prices will remain high.”
Insiders overwhelmingly agreed that the southern portion of the pipeline won’t do much for oil prices. Asked whether prices will go up or down once this piece of the pipeline is completed, 75 percent of Insiders chose “neither,” a mere 14 percent said prices would go down, and 11 percent said they would go up.
“You need to connect the hose to the spigot if you want to water the lawn,” one Insider said, arguing that only the approval of the full Keystone XL pipeline project would affect prices.
Insiders said that aside from some efficiencies in delivery, this portion of the pipeline won’t have much of an impact.
“It will only have an impact on the price of oil if investors see the construction as a sign of things to come in terms of fostering more domestic development,” said one Insider.
- Obama said ready to push partial Keystone XL approval (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Keystone XL Pipeline Has Competition – WSJ (247wallst.com)
- President Obama Promises Fast Track for Keystone XL’s Southern Leg (TRP) (247wallst.com)
- Claims Keystone XL pipeline will destroy Oklahoma historical sites is disputed (newsok.com)
- Obama Headed For Defeat in Pipeline Fight – Byron York – Townhall Conservative Columnists (gds44.wordpress.com)
Obama will be in Cushing, Okla., the start point of the pipeline’s southern half on Thursday
Citing a senior administration source, CNN reported on Tuesday that Obama wants to slash several months off a permit approval process that can ordinarily stretch on for as long as a year.
The administration wants to speed things up to deal with a glut of oil in Cushing, Oklahoma, where crude from the Midwest runs into a logjam on its way to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama will make the announcement Thursday at a storage yard in Cushing, the starting point of the pipeline’s southern half.
Pipes that will be used to build Keystone XL to the Gulf Coast are being housed at the facility.
Gas prices rising
The announcement comes as prices at the pump continue to soar. Republicans are blaming Obama’s energy policies for rising gas prices and continue to attack him for rejecting Keystone XL in January.
The U.S. average price for a gallon of gasoline rose for the 11th straight day on Tuesday to $3.85 US, and soared to $4 a gallon in some states. That would amount to a little over a dollar a litre in Canada.
Millions of barrels of unrefined crude are sitting in storage facilities in North Dakota, in particular, but there’s a lack of pipeline capacity to carry it to the Gulf Coast and a limited number of rail cars that can transport the oil south. The state is currently in the throes of a major oil boom thanks to the discovery of the so-called Bakken Shale.
Obama’s recent praise of Calgary-based TransCanada’s decision to proceed with the construction of the southern segment of the pipeline signalled a shift in attitude from the White House after it rejected the pipeline outright in January.
The entire length of the proposed, $7.6 billion pipeline would stretch from Alberta’s oilsands through six U.S. states to the Gulf Coast.
No decision from State Dept.
The U.S. State Department has yet to make a decision on the pipeline, saying it needs more time to conduct a thorough environmental review of a new route around an environmentally sensitive aquifer in Nebraska. State department officials are assessing the project because it crosses an international border.
In November, under mounting pressure from environmentalists, the State Department deferred making a decision on Keystone until after this year’s presidential election, citing concerns about the risks posed to the aquifer.
Pipeline proponents cried foul, accusing Obama of making a cynical political move aimed at pacifying the environmentalists of his base and improving his chances of re-election.
Republicans then held the administration’s feet to the fire, successfully inserting pipeline provisions into payroll tax cut legislation in late December.
Within a month, facing a mid-February deadline imposed by that measure, Obama nixed TransCanada’s existing permit outright, saying there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly review a new route before giving it the green light.
But Obama also assured Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the decision did not reflect on the pipeline’s merits, but was merely necessitated by Republican pressure tactics. He welcomed TransCanada to propose another route.
- Obama said ready to push partial Keystone XL approval (cbc.ca)
- Politics sank Keystone XL, Exxon says (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Obama to fast track southern portion of Keystone XL Pipeline (whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com)
- As Obama supports part of Keystone XL, TransCanada stops to remove a pig from a pipe (macleans.ca)
- Obama Heading To Oklahoma To Fast-Track Southern Leg Of Keystone XL (thinkprogress.org)
- President Barack Obama’s four-state energy tour stops in Oklahoma on Wednesday (newsok.com)
Published: March. 12, 2012 at 6:47 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama in January denied a permit for TransCanada to build the billion-dollar Keystone XL oil pipeline. Republican leaders had tried to push the permit through by including the pipeline in a bill that extended payroll tax benefits. Obama rejected the permit because of an “arbitrary” deadline proposed in the legislation.
Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson told a major energy conference in Houston that industry leaders were practicing due diligence with the project but it was the U.S. political system that was getting in the way of development.
The decision to deny the initial permit for TransCanada, Tillerson said, was because of “political calculations” in Washington.
“In the end, it was also a disservice to public employees who are charged with overseeing this process and who met their obligations,” he was quoted by the Platts news service as saying. “We must continue to engage elected officials of the public to communicate the consequences of failing to move forward with such strategic opportunities.”
Backers of the pipeline describe it as a “shovel-ready” project that would shield the U.S. market from the effects that Middle East tensions have on the oil market. Critics say crude oil from Canada, designated for Keystone XL, is one of the dirtiest types of crude oil.
TransCanada can reapply after it settles on a route through Nebraska.
Read more: UPI
- Keystone XL Pipeline Bill Dies In Senate (inquisitr.com)
- Senate backs Obama on Keystone XL pipeline (mysanantonio.com)
- Keystone XL pipeline denied lifeline thrown by Republicans (ctv.ca)
- U.S. Senate blocks Republican move to force quick approval of Keystone pipeline (news.nationalpost.com)
- Keystone bill defeated by U.S. Senate Democrats (windsorstar.com)
- Senate kills attempt to approve Keystone pipeline (marketwatch.com)
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/24/2012 08:36 –0500
Just when one thinks American crony capitalism couldn’t hit new lows, here comes Warren Buffett and his personal puppet, the president, proving everyone wrong once more. Because if one thinks there is no (s)quid pro quo for all that “sage” advice that Buffett has been giving to Obama on extracting as much wealth as possible from future wealthy Americans (before they decide they have had enough with this crony shit and leave the country for good), one would be fatally wrong. As it turns out, it is not just natural resources and aquifer purity that Obama had in mind when sealing the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. No – it appears there were far more relevant numerial metrics that determined Obama’s decisions. Such as the bottom line number of Buffett’s Burlington Northern, which according to Bloomberg, is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit. ‘“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said in an interview. If Keystone XL “doesn’t happen, we’re here to haul.” And quite delighted to reap the windfalls of unfounded populist fears she forgot to add. Because while the whole “carbon-credit” multi-trillion top line expansion scheme for Goldman under the pretense of actually caring for the environment may have collapsed, it is not preventing others from trying and succeeding where even Goldman has failed.
Rail car production is already at a three-year high as manufacturers such as Greenbrier Cos Inc. (GBX) and American Railcar Industries Inc. (ARII) expand to meet demand for sand used in oil and gas exploration, according to Steve Barger, an analyst at Keybanc Capital Markets Inc. in Cleveland, citing Railway Supply Institute statistics.
Rail-car suppliers can add capacity, Hatch said.
“Railroads are not just a stopgap while we wait for a pipeline,” Hatch said in an interview. “They are potentially part of the long-term solution.”
Railroads are being used in North Dakota (STOND1), where oil producers have spurred a fivefold increase in output by using intensive drilling practices in the Bakken, a geologic formation that stretches from southern Alberta to the northern U.S. Great Plains. During 2011, rail capacity in the region tripled to almost 300,000 barrels a day as higher production exceeded what pipelines handle, according to the State Department report on Keystone XL.
Burlington Northern carries about 25 percent of the oil from the Bakken, said Krista York-Wooley, the railroad spokeswoman. The company can carry higher volumes from North Dakota or Alberta, she said.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP)’s shipments from North Dakota climbed to more than 13,000 carloads last year from about 500 in 2009, Ed Greenberg, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. The Calgary- based company has a similar plan in western Canada.
“With an extensive rail network and proven expertise in moving energy, CP offers a flexible option for transporting crude oil and other energy-related products to and from key locations in North America,” Vice President Tracy Robinson said in an e-mail. “Rail is scalable, allowing CP to effectively keep pace with the shipping needs of producers.”
So those wondering how it is that AAR railroad statistics continue to be so very strong, it is not because the economy actually justifies it: it is because crony interests such as those of the Octogenarian of Omaha demand it as “payment” for their crony collegiality with the biggest dunce president since Carter.
In other news, it is truly amazing how with every new development, America is now becoming like one giant conspiracy theory, only this time it is actually not a theory as with every passing day we see it enacted in practice.
- Investopedia: The Keystone XL Pipeline Explained (wire.kapitall.com)
- Demise of Keystone XL Means More Bakken Shale Gas Flaring (desmogblog.com)
- State Department to Reject Keystone XL Pipeline Reroute (inquisitr.com)