Economy, Regs, & Taxes

Obama Drills the Oil Industry One Last Time

He aims to block Arctic and Atlantic exploration.

Lewis Morris · Dec. 21, 2016

With exactly a month left before he leaves office, Barack Obama is throwing a bone to his ecofascist supporters. He will invoke a little-known provision from a 1953 law that gives him the power to block the sale of new oil drilling rights in much of the U.S. Arctic and a portion of the Atlantic.

As Charles Krauthammer put it, “This is so egregious. It’s perfectly revealing of the fact that, Obama, as he leaves the White House, he’s trying to nail everything to the floor so it can’t be moved.”

The law was previously used to protect coral reefs and animal feeding grounds, but Obama is adapting it to withdraw U.S. waters from oil and gas leases. Krauthammer explained, “[H]e’s interpreting this 60-year-old law in a wildly different way. It was intended to protect the feeding areas of the walrus. It was supposed to be specific, narrow, small tracks, not this gigantic locking away.”

Furthermore, Krauthammer says, “The idea that because we’re not going to drill here the oil and natural gas is not going to be produced is ridiculous. It’s going to end up being produced in Nigeria, places all over the world, where the standards — environmental standards and protections — are infinitely less than they are in the U.S. So even in terms of the environment, you’re increasing the danger. It’s very obvious that all they’re trying to do is prevent American production of hydrocarbons, and it’s futile. The Indians and the Chinese are opening a coal-fired plant every week. It is not going to stop. What we don’t do, they will do. What we are doing is exporting jobs, exporting the waste, and exporting the danger.”

As with his other unilateral actions to stifle American energy production, however, the president was heaped with praise from the Left. “This decision would help to protect existing lucrative coastal tourism and fishing businesses from offshore drilling, which promises smaller, short-lived returns and threatens coastal livelihoods,” said Jacqueline Savitz of Oceana, a conservation group.

It’s hard to believe that, in places like Alaska, tourism could be more lucrative than the oil industry. And if there are any businesses that promise small, short-lived returns, it’s tourism, which is a fickle industry subject to the whims of travelers, weather and the economy.

Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, an energy industry trade group, was more on point, saying, “Blocking offshore exploration would weaken our national security, destroy good-paying jobs and could make energy less affordable for consumers.”

Of course, Obama believes that our current low gas prices will last forever. After all, he made that possible. Or so we are supposed to believe. In fact, the low gas prices America is now enjoying are because of a rise in production from private lands, coupled with a worldwide production glut. How could Obama, who openly stated his desire to regulate fossil fuel companies out of existence and jack up consumer bills in the process, be responsible for that?

It may be possible for Donald Trump to undo some of Obama’s unilateral actions to harm the energy industry, but this one could be tough work. Other presidents have withdrawn access to large areas of the West Coast and southern Florida from oil exploration while their successors have made modifications to those actions. However, there have been no court rulings on the federal level regarding undoing these decisions. We expect U.S. business to acclimate and persevere, but Obama is talking one last opportunity to make that harder.

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