President Obama Nearly Killed Our Energy Sector, He Didn’t ‘Reinvent’ It

John Linder Former Congressman
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Last Friday’s headline in the Washington Times got my attention. “Obama Halts Coal Production on Public Lands.”

Is that what the president meant when he told us in the State of the Union address three days earlier that he had “reinvented our energy sector?”

I went back to the president’s speech and re-read it. It was still boring and disjointed, but there, in the very beginning, he spoke of his accomplishments of the past seven years. My first thought was, “Is this a joke?”

I wondered who wrote this? “[W]e reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector … we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans.”

In 2008 candidate Barack Obama explained his energy policy: “Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” He went on to be more precise; “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can – it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

Unlike many of President Obama’s policy proposals, this one is working. What began as an attack on coal fueled electricity plants ended up bankrupting coal companies.

Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy the day before the State of the Union address. Patriot Coal has been in and out of bankruptcy proceedings for three years.  Peabody Energy, our largest coal company, is right behind them.

Part of coal’s problem is the discovery of new sources of natural gas made recoverable by a new process called fracking. Fracking, however, is also under regulatory pressure from both state and federal governments.

Coal is also being suffocated by increasing regulations imposed by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

Oil has been under attack by this administration since President Obama was inaugurated. One year ago the Interior Department announced that it would preserve as wilderness 1.5 million acres of coastal plains in Alaska that are rich in oil and natural gas.

That was preceded by the administration indefinitely blocking oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The increase in energy production in the last decade has come entirely from private exploration on private lands.

There is something unseemly about doing everything possible to stop energy production and then taking credit for what private enterprise accomplishes in spite of government policy.

The president also wanted to remind us that he reformed our healthcare system. Millions of Americans are paying the consequences with the loss of their healthcare policies.

To replace those policies 37 states received $2.1 billion in grants to establish exchanges to deliver the services. Only 17 did so, and they got an additional $2.7 billion. Of those 17, half have failed. The remaining are on shaky financial grounds and more will close down.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says that Obamacare will help ten million Americans receive coverage by the end of 2016.

Since nine million of those newly covered Americans have moved to the Medicaid rolls, this could have been accomplished by expanding Medicaid and subsidizing premiums for low income Americans and leaving the rest of us alone.

Millions would not have lost their coverage, the Little Sisters of the Poor would not be forced to pay for birth control and 60-year old retirees could buy insurance without having to pay for pediatric dentistry coverage.

On the subject of veterans care and benefits, I think that if I were helping to write President Obama’s State of the Union address I might have suggested that he leave that one alone.

The VA’s inspector general recently found that out of 800,000 records stalled on the agency’s waiting lists, more than 300,000 of those records belonged to veterans who had died while waiting.

While the veterans were being ignored, the managers in the VA system were taking care of themselves. Two senior VA executives are under investigation for abusing their positions to move lower ranking people out of jobs that they wanted and billing the VA $400,000 in relocation expenses to move to the new positions.

Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves refused to testify before Congress and chose to hide behind their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

The president continued Tuesday evening’s delusion by celebrating the accord with Iran on its nuclear program.

“As we speak,” the president said, “Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile and the world has avoided another war.”

That is simply breathtaking! The world avoided another war?

At what point did anyone in this administration, or indeed anyone the world, conclude that if we didn’t hand over $150 billion dollars to Iran we would be at war?

While the president was speaking, Iran was not celebrating that accord. They had boarded two U.S. Navy boats and were taking ten American sailors into captivity. In the following days they would violate all international laws and use the sailors as tools in a propaganda campaign.

That story didn’t fit in the valedictory parade of successes so those ten sailors didn’t get so much as a mention.