What if we had the chance to pursue a course of action that would strengthen our national security, boost our economy permanently and didn’t cost taxpayers anything? It would be a no-brainer. Yet the Obama administration still resists maximizing our natural gas resources for our strategic and economic advantage.
Barack Obama was overheard during the 2012 campaign urging the Russians to be patient with him since he could be more “flexible” after the election. Vladimir Putin gratefully took advantage of Obama’s friendly flexibility to execute, in Ukraine, the first change of government over any territory in Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall.
The savvy ex-KGB agent would like to re-establish the hegemony of the old Soviet Union if he could. Meanwhile, our community-organizer-in-chief unleashes laughable economic sanctions and sends packaged meals to the Ukrainians resisting Putin’s advances.
Our allies in Europe are potentially the front line for resisting Russian aggression, but they’re mired in energy dependence. Thirteen European nations receive over half of their natural gas from Russia and four have no other gas supplier at all.
Russia doesn’t flinch at using gas as a weapon either. When Ukrainians elected a president not to Putin’s liking earlier this year, Russia announced an immediate 44 percent increase in natural gas prices. In energy-starved Europe, Russia is not to be trifled with.
But there’s good news, too. Many Americans have yet to realize the magnitude of our good fortune in the energy arena. Vast new discoveries of energy reserves over the last few decades, along with technological advances in recovering the supplies, have opened the door to true energy self-sufficiency
Never again will we be forced to grovel before medieval-minded sheiks for basic energy needs. We have enough energy to last indefinitely, at least well past the time when economically viable renewable sources should have been developed.
But so far the Obama administration hasn’t been very “flexible” in maximizing our advantage. There’s intense ideological opposition to anything but “alternative” fuels. Amazingly, since natural gas is considered a low-polluting fuel, environmental ideologues have convinced the federal government to limit onshore production of natural gas, to impede building pipelines and to almost eliminate our ability to export gas to our allies.
The enviros have been especially aggressive in their campaign against fracking, the process of recovering natural gas by pumping chemically treated water into shale formations to release the hydrocarbons.
While no method of energy production is perfectly safe, there has never been a documented instance of groundwater contamination from fracking. A few years ago, there was high excitement over purported contamination of an especially close aquifer near Pavillion, Wyo. Unfortunately, an EPA study debunked even that claim, but opposition to fracking soldiers on.
Because the permitting process for pipelines is so gummed up in the bureaucracy, we don’t have the infrastructure to gather and move the natural gas our new technology is producing. Oil and gas producers have no choice but to burn on-site trillions of cubic feet of natural gas each year. In North Dakota, 40 percent of natural gas produced on federal lands is “flared”, benefiting no one.
To see environmental extremism in action, it’s hard to beat the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. Building the pipeline would create thousands of good jobs, improve our energy self-sufficiency and prove to Canadians that we are a trustworthy trading partner. Moreover, approving the Keystone XL would be an environmental boon, since oil not transported here will go to high-polluting areas like China.
Still, Obama dithers, bending again to political pressure. He decided long ago to wait until after the next election to decide. Now that’s leadership.
Fortunately it looks like this nonsense may be winding down. Public opinion and current events are working against those willing to hog-tie their own country and frustrate our allies.
Companies and entrepreneurs are chomping at the bit to recover more of our abundant energy supplies, to build pipelines and refineries and start exporting fuel. At this point, we don’t even need leadership, we just need government to get out of the way and let energy markets work. Is that asking too much?
• East Valley resident Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.