Patterson: Obama on wrong side of energy arguments - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Patterson: Obama on wrong side of energy arguments

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East Valley resident Tom Patterson ( is a retired physician and former state senator.

Posted: Saturday, December 17, 2011 1:00 pm | Updated: 10:50 am, Fri Feb 3, 2012.

The Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to kill the naturally occurring oil and gas boom in North America — but it’s not going well. Too much relatively clean, inexpensive fuel has been discovered. We could definitely use the energy and more jobs would be great.  No viable alternatives have appeared.

Still, the administration soldiers on. Moratoriums in the gulf. Bans on permits. Wildland regulations. Accelerated Environmental Protection Agency restrictions. Massive subsidies for impractical green energy suppliers. Nothing seems too extreme, and none of it works.

Many Americans don’t realize the phenomenal growth in our domestic energy stores that has occurred in the past few years. Technological advances in locating petroleum have combined with the financial motivation of rising fuel prices to increase supply. The result has been the discovery of astonishingly vast new stores of energy beneath the Great Plains, under the ocean, in Canada and elsewhere.

But good news for the rest of us is cause for desperation in an Obama administration whose own energy secretary — prior to being selected for the position — once stated a goal of boosting “the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” No matter the cost or who has to pay, their dream of eliminating fossil fuels lives on. To see how this ideology trumps sound science and economics, consider the case of the XL pipeline.

Canada, our largest and friendliest fuel supplier, has discovered vast reserves of “tar sand” in remote northern Alberta. Crude oil [*see correction] can be recovered there by fracking — cracking apart rocks with pressurized water and diluted chemicals to release natural gas.

There’s no free lunch in energy production and fracking itself is relatively energy intensive. There’s also a concern about contaminating drinking water supplies, although the only case on record so far has already been resolved.

The good news is that the process is so cost-effective that if Canada were to transport the fuel for refinement to the U.S., 830,000 barrels of oil per day would come our way, 600,000 new jobs would be supported and $775 billion would be added to our economy by 2035.

The “problem” is that the XL pipeline would have to be constructed to transport the fuel south. The way most of us see it, that would be a good thing, too, since 20,000 new jobs would be created by the project.

Multiple pipelines already criss-cross our fair land. Yet the self-appointed environmentalists are putting their foot down on this one, insisting that President Obama refuse to give the OK, on pain of losing their support in the 2012 election.

Congressional Republicans and some Democrats have urged going ahead with construction, which led the New York Times to headline that Republicans are trying to “rush” the pipeline. That’s rich, since it has already been studied for three years, twice the time normally required for similar projects.

The arguments of the obstructionists are weak. There has been extensive review by state and local governments along the route, by environmentalists, government agencies and landowners. Questions have been answered, the route has even been adjusted.

Frustrated pipeline advocates are trying to include the pipeline go-ahead in a bill authorizing the extension of the payroll tax reduction and other administration-approved measures. But Obama is having none of it, pouring enormous political capital into the “delay until after the election” option. There’s leadership for you.

How does that even make sense? He believes, probably correctly, that postponing the decision will likely kill the project. Canada, already disgusted with our dysfunctional politics, won’t stop production but will find other buyers. The Chinese are interested.  Energy markets will go on without us.

Meanwhile, Obama gets to have it both ways. He’ll get his “attaboy” from the enviros but still collect campaign funds from producers hoping the pipeline will be built. Then, when it’s too late, the great decision will be made.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to pay higher fuel prices. And even though we now have the opportunity to be energy independent, we’ll continue to buy oil from people who use our dollars to spread hatred against us. This is absurd.

East Valley resident Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator. He can be reached at


*CORRECTION: Dec. 27, 2011: The original version of this commentary, appearing online and in print on Dec. 17, 2011, should have stated that crude oil, not natural gas, would be transported through the XL pipeline. The Tribune regrets the error.

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