The counteroffensive to President Obama’s war on fossil fuels begins

At long last, Congress is launching a counteroffensive to President Obama’s war on fossil fuels.

A bipartisan group of senators recently grilled Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar about bureaucratic delays in approving deep-water oil drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. And, following an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the impact of EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions on jobs, legislation was introduced to block that agency’s regulatory authority.

Obama has been undeniably consistent in his unrelenting and unapologetic attack on our nation’s traditional forms of energy — coal, oil and natural gas.

While running for president, Obama famously said he sought to make electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket” through cap-and-trade legislation and “bankrupt” power plants committing the progressive crime of using coal as an energy source.

When cap and trade failed to pass Congress before the 2010 midterm elections, Obama shifted gears. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Obama said: “One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation.”

One such “chunk” is Obama wielding his executive powers through the EPA to discourage the use of fossil fuels. The EPA’s end-run around Congress to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act is a prime example of this new administrative assault.

Coal is a cheap and abundant natural resource currently providing about half of our country’s electricity. By cracking down on emissions such as carbon dioxide, released when fossil fuels are burned, the EPA’s new regulation would raise the price of energy. It would have a particularly devastating effect on coal-fired electricity generation.

Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming derive more than eighty percent of their electricity from coal and, not surprisingly, these states have among the lowest energy prices in the country.

Left unchecked, EPA’s backdoor effort to limit carbon dioxide would hit these states hard.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) are leading the charge to blunt Obama’s regulatory assault. They are the lead sponsors of the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. By removing the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act, their legislation would prevent the EPA from forcing factories and power plants to cut emissions. It does not, however, change a deal stuck between the Obama administration and the auto industry to reduce vehicle emissions.

Importantly, this effort to rein in the EPA is not limited to Republicans — Democrats also back the legislation. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Representatives Dan Boren (D-OK), Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) are co-sponsoring the bill.

Resistance from Obama’s own party to his war on fossil fuels is not restricted to limiting the EPA’s power. During the recent Senate hearing on the Interior Department’s budget, Secretary Ken Salazar faced harsh questions from Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) about his department’s failure to approve a backlog of deep-sea drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

Landrieu pressed Salazar to explain what he was doing to speed up approvals, telling Salazar that the uncertainty surrounding the permitting process could impede new drilling applications.