by Marita Noon
“You are responsible for President Obama’s re-election,” I told 150 folks from the oil and gas industry —most of whom were conservative Republicans. I spoke to them on October 15 in San Angelo, TX. A reporter covering the event wrote that I “stunned the crowd by telling them they were largely responsible for getting the president re-elected, and asking them if they knew how they had helped.” He continued:
“The room was very quiet for several moments as Noon waited to see if anyone would volunteer an answer.”
We know President Obama has been waging a war on coal—with tens of thousands of jobs lost due to his attacks since he was elected in 2008, but why has the oil and gas industry escaped the harsh regulations that have virtually shut down both coal mining and coal-fueled power plants? After all, we know his environmentalist base—with whom he is philosophically aligned—hates them equally.
The reporter added: “Finally someone suggested it was job creation that Noon was alluding to.”
The oil and gas industry has added millions of jobs to the U.S. economy in the past six years and represents the bright spot in the jobs numbers. Imagine where the unemployment numbers would be if the oil and gas industry had been treated as poorly as coal.
While President Obama hasn’t had an outright war on oil and gas, he surely hasn’t helped—and his surrogates have been out fighting on his behalf.
According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), oil production on state and private lands is up 61 percent and is down 6 percent on federal lands. The CRS found that it takes 41 percent longer to process an application for permit to drill in 2011 than it did in 2006. Getting a permit on federal lands takes an average of 194 days compared to a few days to a month on state lands.
The Obama administration approved the fewest drilling permits since 2002. Additionally, it has sold the lowest amount of oil-and-gas leases since 1988. As a result, U.S. oil production on federal lands has fallen to a five-year low. And, these numbers don’t include the tens of thousands of jobs that would have been created if the Keystone pipeline had been approved six years ago.
With an eye always on politics, President Obama can’t afford the negative job numbers a war on all fossil fuels would cause. Less concerned about the political fallout, using a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach, his allies have been fighting oil and gas—as they’ve done with coal.
Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association, told me: “Make no mistake, the oil and gas industry now finds itself in the same political crosshairs from the Obama Administration and their allies that coal did in the President’s first term. From Sierra Club’s new-found animosity to natural gas, as evidenced by its Beyond Natural Gas campaign, to the President’s inability to take any action related to the Keystone pipeline, the uncertainty and inevitable economic damage caused by an adverse federal government is now striking yet another fossil fuel.”
Environmental extremist groups repeatedly oppose the Keystone pipeline and lock themselves to the White House gates to prove their point. They believe fracking should be a crime and want it banned—which would shut down 96 percent of all oil and gas drilling in America.
Because the average American understands that “drill here, drill now” results in lower prices at the pump—as we are seeing right now, I believe they use “fracking” as a canard when the real target is drilling. Capitalizing on the public’s lack of awareness about the safe and proven technology of hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—anti-fossil fuel activists have been able to give “fracking” their own definition that essentially covers everything from permitting to production to delivery.
A year ago, Environment America released the Fracking by the Numbers report that offers this:
In this report, when we refer to the impacts of “fracking,” we include impacts resulting from all of the activities needed to bring a shale gas or oil well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracturing operations that use at least 100,000 gallons of water), to operate that well, and to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market. The oil and gas industry often uses a more restrictive definition of “fracking” that includes only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured—a definition that obscures the broad changes to environmental, health and community conditions that result from the use of fracking in oil and gas extraction.
Many cities and counties—mostly liberal communities with little or no drilling potential—have passed anti-fracking legislation, resolutions and/or moratoriums. They then claim success and build momentum as an argument for others to follow suit.
Colorado had two anti-oil-and-gas initiatives on November’s ballot, but the supporters agreed to pull them when it became clear the measures would drive Republicans to the polls and hurt troubled re-election chances for Senator Mark Udall and Governor John Hickenlooper.
Mora County, New Mexico has been bold enough to pass a ban on all drilling for hydrocarbons, not just fracking—a move that’s resulted in two lawsuits and fiscal liabilities against the little county.
Now, with out of state money pouring in as it did in Mora County, Santa Barbara, California, County residents will be voting on November 4 on Measure P—which is, according to Dr. James Boles, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Professor Emeritus, Earth Sciences: “a poorly designed measure that would shut down energy production in Santa Barbara County.”
Ballotpedia calls Measure P the “Santa Barbara County Fracking Ban Initiative.” Yet, in a letter to the editor (LTE), the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce “urges its members to vote ‘no’ on Measure P on the November 2014 ballot.” The first of five arguments the Chamber presents in support of its “no” position states: “The ballot measure is written in a way that is likely to mislead voters. Its title says that it is a ban on ‘fracking.’
This is misleading for two reasons: there is no fracking in Santa Barbara County and, in addition, the ballot measure also prohibits many other forms of oil and gas extraction. A voter would have to read the entirety of the lengthy and complicated measure to understand that its impact is far greater than suggested by the title.” The LTE continues: “An impartial analysis prepared by Santa Barbara County found that 100 percent of the active oil and gas wells currently use one or more of the production techniques prohibited by Measure P.”
A leaked email soliciting UCSB students for “Summer Jobs to Ban Fracking” states: “We’re working this summer to convince Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking before it’s too late. …This summer we are hiring staff to talk to 30,000 Santa Barbara County residents to build the support we need to win. We are hiring for full time positions only (40 hrs/wk), M-F.”
The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA, to Bill McKibben’s 350.org and Tom Steyer (who recently met with Santa Barbara activists).
In a recent op-ed published in the Santa Barbara News, Andy Caldwell, Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business executive director and radio talk show host, asks: “Who is funding the hiring of UCSB students to work on an anti-oil campaign as paid staff?” He continues:
“What looks and sounds like a movement is actually a coordinate campaign funded and directed in secret by phenomenally rich people with an agenda. It works in the opposite manner of a legitimate grass roots movement. The non-profits are in essence hired to carry out specific tasks as part of an overall campaign strategy. The Senate report indicates that ‘the grants awarded specify how the recipients must use the funds. This allows the Billionaire’s club to engage in a defined transaction so they know in advance what services to expect for their money. As such, environmental groups that heavily rely on foundation funds to comprise a substantial portion of their budgets begin to look much more like private contractors buying and selling a service rather than benevolent non-profits seeking to carry out charitable acts.’”
“These attacks are no longer about the environment.” Ed Hazard, president of the California chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners, says:
“They have morphed into an effort to fundamentally change the political, financial, and economic foundations of the United States and other nations. These are anti-private property rights and anti-capitalism efforts.”
If Measure P passes on November 4—giving the environmentalists another win and the economy another loss, well-paid jobs in the oil industry will go away and surrounding communities will suffer (similar to the impact felt in coal).
A vote against Measure P sends a signal bigger than Santa Barbara. In the war on fossil fuels, it shows we are fighting back. It supports America’s economic potential and energy security while tamping down the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that are the popular tools of Obama’s moneyed allies.
Once P is defeated, we have two years to be sure the next White House occupant understands that energy makes America great.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.