by Jeffrey Folks
Natural gas is a feedstock for the production of fertilizer, plastics, and many chemical products. Fortunately, America possesses vast reserves of recoverable natural gas. The low price of this gas is one factor spurring companies like Dow Chemical to expand production in the United States rather than send jobs overseas.
How many jobs? According to one reliable estimate, low gas prices resulting from hydraulic fracturing will result in the creation of one million new jobs in the U.S. in the next decade and a half. That is in addition to another half million jobs created by the fracking process itself and the countless other spin-off jobs necessary to support those expanding chemical, fertilizer, plastics, and energy industries. (Canadian oil sands development alone would create 343,000 new jobs in the U.S. That is the same development that Obama is trying to shut down with his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline.)
It all adds up to a renaissance for American industry, with all the benefits of job creation, economic growth, and wealth creation that go with it. As a result of the new natural gas boom and the industrial recovery, American industries will be expanding their workforces. The stagnant industrial wages of the last 30 years should begin to see meaningful expansion. Once again, American industrial workers can look forward to job security and higher wages.
It all sounds like an economic miracle, and it is. So why is Obama trying to kill it? That is what he is doing with his recently appointed "oversight group" headed by a long-time environmental activist to regulate fracking, his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, his repeated proposals of $40 billion in new taxes on the oil and gas industry, and the continuing effort on the part of his EPA to link fracking to water and air pollution.
For two very good reasons, the regulation of the oil and gas business has always been entrusted to the state and not at the federal government (except for federal lands).
First, there is no constitutional basis for federal regulation of energy production within state borders. State regulation of natural resources falls within the limited powers clause of the Constitution. Federal regulators have no basis for attempting to regulate energy producers operating within state borders.
Second, even if there were a constitutional basis, state regulators are far more knowledgeable as to the local geological conditions and business climate, and they are responsive to the local public in ways that federal regulators will never be. As the Framers of our Constitution understood, the needs and preferences of citizens vary from state to state. The citizens of New York may prefer to ban new drilling techniques in part or all of that state, no matter how costly that ban may be. Meanwhile, the people of North Dakota may decide to enrich themselves by developing their natural resources. The federal government has no right to impose "oversight" of energy production on either state.
The Obama administration is well aware of this long-standing rule, but it is attempting to take control from the states on the pretext of environmental regulation. This attempt to further concentrate power in Washington is fraught with enormous dangers for the American people. In the first place, unnecessary regulations have the effect of reducing energy exploration in the U.S. and driving exploration overseas. Any one of the oil and gas majors can just as well explore in Canada, Brazil, Angola, Russia, Australia, or dozens of other countries around the globe. If they are burdened with new regulations and taxes, they will leave the U.S. and take those millions of new jobs with them.
None of this matters to a President for whom power is more important than job creation and economic growth. Even if it costs ten million Americans their jobs (which is what it has done so far with the subpar recovery to date), Obama is obsessed with the goal of concentrating power in Washington, and specifically in his own hands. For this President, who admits to having once been a regular drug user, power is the real narcotic. It all comes down to the fact that Obama is driven by an implacable and fanatical desire to control every aspect of American life.
The oil and gas industry comprises 7.5% of the American economy, and it is one part of the economy that is still largely regulated at the state level. No wonder Obama is making such efforts to regulate the energy sector. Once an industry has been brought under federal regulatory control, it becomes a treasure trove of contributions and support for the administration in office. This is the corporatist system that Bismarck pioneered in Germany and that Hitler perfected. But even Hitler allowed Krupp a measure of autonomy as long as it aligned itself with his goals. Obama is attempting to carry corporatism to an unprecedented level so as to control the entire economy. This is why he is dictating fracking rules, CAFE standards, consumer protection standards, financial reforms, and, of course, sweeping takeover of the entire healthcare industry.
The effects of Obama's power grab are becoming increasingly apparent. Power is more important to this President than jobs, vastly more important. That is why, without any hesitation, he killed the 120,000 high-paying jobs that would have resulted from the Keystone XL pipeline. By his calculation, donations from the environmental lobby outweigh the suffering of 120,000 Americans who desperately need work. The same can be said for his reversal of promises to allow exploration of Atlantic oil and gas leases. That exploration has already been delayed for five years by his Interior Secretary. Now it is being delayed for another five years. Even where state regulators have allowed fracking, Obama is desperate to constrain if not kill it off. He would gladly sacrifice the livelihood of every American-all 9.2 million of them-supported by the oil and gas sector in return for a small increment of power. That is how cold and unfeeling this leader is.
Nothing can stop Obama from gaining the power he seeks except defeat in November. Even if his party loses control of the Senate, Obama has sworn that he will continue his takeover of America by deploying his czars and regulators to bring American businesses under heel. That move comes right out of the Nazi playbook. Failing to gain a majority in the two Reichstag elections of 1932, Hitler gained dictatorial powers without ever winning a majority of democratically elected representatives. Once he became Chancellor, Hitler concentrated power in himself by eliminating the traditional autonomy of the German states, dominating the press and media, curtailing religious freedom, and shipping his opponents off to concentration camps. Does this sound vaguely familiar?
The concentration of power in one man is, by definition, fascist in nature. As Obama views America, the healthcare, financial, industrial, and energy sectors constitute bastions of economic liberty that he feels compelled to bring within his personal control. With ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank financial regulation, he has already achieved much of what he desires. Energy is the one major sector that Obama has so far failed to bring under complete regulatory control. It is not surprising that he has deployed the EPA and created a fracking oversight committee. Nothing will stop him in his crazed drive for power except defeat in November.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.