Saturday, January 9, 2010

Setting the Stage for the Next Energy Crisis

The energy economy of the Rockies has gone from boom to bust in only a few short years, jacking-up jobless rates and leaving a yawning hole in state coffers. But two new body blows are poised to slam energy producers, courtesy of anti-drilling obstructionists and green-leaning Democrats.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday announced new regulatory barriers to domestic oil and gas development, under the guise of giving the public a greater say in the approval process. And a likely Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse promises to throw yet another monkey wrench into the works, not just for oil and gas producers but for wind projects too.

Any suggestion that the public lacks influence over drilling decisions is just bizarre. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) makes ample -- arguably excessive -- provision for public input (though the "public" process routinely gets hijacked by professional extremists who are anything but "mainstream"). And federal energy leases frequently are canceled or shelved at the behest of greens and NIMBYs.

Burying federal land managers in more layers of process will further stunt domestic energy production and deepen our reliance on foreign imports. This White House is killing jobs with one hand, while claiming to "create" jobs with the other, and setting the stage today for tomorrow's energy crunch.

When the next energy crisis crashes down on us, as it will when the world economy recovers from its swoon, Americans might think back on such decisions when they're searching for the reasons. Assuming, that is, they can connect the dots between regulatory causes and market effects. That will demand a level of economic literacy most Americans lack.

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