With poor Japan's nuclear reactors in crisis; with Middle East violence stripping bare American recklessness in relying on an Arab oil supply; with prices rising fast at the local gas pump, there is an almost apocalyptic tension growing in the absence of action on the American energy problem: Tons -- or, rather barrels and cubic feet -- of resources, and no will or even interest on the part of our trusted, responsible and feckless elected leaders to get it.
What is their problem? What is our problem?
Sarah Palin posted about this emerging crisis this week (and created a not-so-small news cycle in the process), taking on "The 4-Dollar-Per-Gallon President," which is probably a low-ball figure. Palin scored President Obama's energy program, which, at best, does nothing to reverse the rise in prices at the pump even in the long-term, which is what it seems we can reasonably ask of him.
Why doesn't it? Answer coming; first, the back-story.
Palin outlines Obama administration energy policies which include: a drilling moratorium (only two permits in the last year); Obama's 2012 budget that, for example, cuts tax incentives for energy exploration; and anti-drilling regulatory policies. She discusses in some detail an area north of the Arctic Circle where the U.S. Geological Survey tells us there are some 90 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, "one-third of which is in Alaskan territory."
"That's our next Prudhoe Bay right there," she writes, describing thousands of jobs, hundreds of billions of dollars in wages and revenue, and a home-grown energy flow that wouldn't depend on the shaky grip of some desiccated desert bandit with a harem. Palin continues: "This would be great news if only the federal government would allow Shell" -- the company that purchased the leases -- "to drill there. But it won't."
Sure enough, as Palin points out, just last month, Shell announced an end to exploratory drilling this year in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas after Alaskan native and environmentalist groups went before the federal Environmental Appeals Board and successfully challenged the drilling permits Shell had received from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Now, who is it that we elected on that appeals board to make this crucial drilling decision? There's something out of whack about this system; something we can't touch; something we can't even see. Particularly in our unstable era, such a decision is an urgent matter for open debate by elected representatives; not for those "faceless bureaucrats" you read about (or maybe not).
Of course, we elected Barack Obama. The question Americans must ask of him before next time (heaven forefend) is whether he even wants low gas prices.
Judging by his actions, his rhetoric, his Third-World, anti-imperialist, Frantz-Fanon-imbued vision of Diminished America, my hunch is no. To this president's way of thinking, high gas prices are a solution, not a problem. Cheap energy is the launch pad of a soaring economy, one beyond government (his) control. And this president wants control: over what we eat (less), drive (smaller) and live (lower thermostats). As Palin reminds us, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu actually pines for gasoline prices as high as Europe's ($9-plus) as a tool of social regimentation "to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars," as the Wall Street Journal reported, "and living in neighborhoods closer to work." Chu told the paper, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Oh, and by the way: Not one senator whose salary we pay bothered to query Chu during his confirmation hearing about how regular Americans with hour-long commutes (as opposed to Berkeley professors like Chu) would fare in this social-engineering scheme.
"Energy is the building block of our economy," Palin wrote. "The President is purposely weakening that building block and weakening our economy."
I think Palin's right. This isn't about "experience," "ineptitude" or "inaction." Such excuses would explain failure to achieve a more or less conventional goal of, for lack of a better term, American greatness. That just isn't what Obama has in mind. Otherwise, he'd be doing absolutely everything in his considerable presidential powers to bring American oil to market ASAP.