Marita Noon

The State of The Union Address (SOTU) reminded me of the idiom, “on one hand, on the other hand.”

On one hand, President Obama extoled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to “help America wean itself off foreign oil.” He touted the new reality of “more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that's happened in nearly twenty years.” On the other hand, he promised to use his “authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations”—which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.

Electricity and extreme poverty

Concern was expressed for Americans who “are working more than ever just to get by.” He wants to help Africans “double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty.” But his policies are limiting access to electricity in America and raising the cost (20% in the past 6 years). Higher-cost energy is the most punitive to those struggling “just to get by.”

The “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families, 2001-2013” report found: “Lower-income families are more vulnerable to energy costs than higher-income families because energy represents a larger portion of their household budgets, reducing the amount of income that can be spent on food, housing, health care, and other necessities. Nearly one-third of U.S. households had gross annual incomes less than $30,000 in 2011. Energy costs accounted for an average of 27% of their family budgets, before taking into account any energy assistance.” The report shows the 27% is an 11% increase over the 2001 energy cost impact. For households with an after-tax income higher than $50,000, the 2001 percentage was 5 and the 2013: 9—a 4% increase. For low- and middle-income families, energy costs are now consuming a portion of after-tax household income comparable to that traditionally spent on major categories such as housing, food, and health care—with black, Hispanic and senior households being hit especially hard.

All of the above

President Obama took credit for his “‘all of the above’ energy strategy” which, he claims has “moved America closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.” And, regarding natural gas, he says that he’ll “cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work.” POTUS proclaimed: “I'll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.” The Department of Energy has dozens of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities languishing on some bureaucrat’s desk. One of the few approved terminals: Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal Project in Cameron Parish Louisiana, created more than 2000 jobs in 2013 and looks to create another 2000 jobs in 2014. President Obama, please act on your own here. Cut the red tape and slash the bureaucracy. Let’s get those permits issued.

A January 16, 2013, letter sent to the White House from 18 environmental groups, whose opinions seem to be held in such high regard by the Obama administration, challenged the president’s approach—calling “all of the above” a “compromise that future generations can’t afford.” The letter states: “We believe that continued reliance on an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption.” They claim: “an ‘all of the above’ approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future.” The groups see it as a threat to “our most sensitive lands.” Despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, they posit: “clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels” save Americans money. The letter concludes: “We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a ‘carbon-reducing clean energy’ strategy rather than an ‘all of the above’ strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.”

Climate Change

As if an executive decree could make it so, he announced: “the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” True, climate change is a fact—the climate changes, always has, always will. But the debate as to what causes it or what should be done about it is far from “settled.” “We have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods,” he announced. However, droughts and floods have been going on throughout history when CO2 emissions (which he calls “carbon pollution”) were much lower than today. His solution? “The shift to a cleaner economy,” which gobbles up taxpayer dollars in crony corruption (more than 30 such projects have gone bust since the 2009 stimulus bill released nearly $100 billion for “clean energy”).

A story in the January 25, 2013, Economist titled “European climate policy: worse than useless” starts: “Since climate change was identified as a serious threat to the planet, Europe has been in the vanguard of the effort to mitigate it.” Europe has been the global leader in climate change policies that are, according to The Economist: “dysfunctional.” The “worse than useless” piece states: “Had Europe’s policies worked better, other countries might have been more inclined to emulate the leaders in the field.” It points out that Europe’s “largest source of renewable energy” is wood.

A companion article in the same issue of The Economist, “Europe’s energy woes,” states: “Europeans are more concerned with the cost of climate-change policies than with their benefits. European industries pay three to four times more for gas, and over twice as much for electricity, as American ones.” Calling the EU “a lone front-runner without followers,” the article points out: “it is hard to sell the idea of higher energy prices, particularly when the rest of the world is doing too little to cut greenhouse gases.” Rather than learning from Europe, like a lemming, President Obama apparently wants to lead America off the same “useless” cliff.

Minimum wage

He believes that the minimum wage needs to be increased to $10.10 an hour. He wants to “Give America a raise.” Yet, in North Dakota’s boom economy, workers at Walmart and McDonalds are paid in the teens—without government meddling. The best wages are paid with a fully employed workforce. The Keystone XL pipeline would provide thousands of good paying (often union) jobs, but, it was never mentioned in the 2014 SOTU. (By the way, the long-awaited report on Keystone was released on Friday. It found that “the project would have a minimal impact on the environment.” Politico calls the report: “a major disappointment to climate activists.”)

President Obama, you are correct when you say, “opportunity is who we are,” but your policies hurt the poor and block job creation. My question for you echoes what you asked early in the SOTU address: “The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress.” Are you going to help Americans or hinder our opportunities? This question should run through every decision you make in 2014.

On one hand, you say you want to help. On the other hand, everything you do hinders.


Marita Noon

Marita Noon is Executive Director of Energy Makes America Great.
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