Ron Arnold: Obama's 'starve America first' energy policy creates a backlash 

"Energy is the capacity to do work." That simple truth from Physics 101 has everything to do with gas prices spiking at the pump as Moammar Gadhafi's war planes bomb Libya's rebel-held oil district and the whole Middle East seethes in unrest.

With shaky foreign energy supplies threatening to deepen the worst recession since World War II, why doesn't America protect its capacity to do work by drilling for more oil and gas here at home? Simple truth from Politics 101: Big Green's extreme anti-energy ideology permeates the Obama administration.

Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the D.C.-based Institute for Energy Research, told me, "The Obama administration is deliberately embargoing our own domestic energy from us, from Americans.

He and his agency heads all believe in the politics of scarcity -- force society to live with less. The most anti-energy interior secretary in history is Obama's Ken Salazar -- who is also presently in contempt of court for withholding deepwater Gulf of Mexico oil drilling permits."

Department of the Interior Secretary Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado well practiced in Washington's pretended niceties, wields power with self-assured arrogance that needs no bluster. Two days before Christmas last year, he issued Secretarial Order 3310, in which through bureaucratic fiat he created a new category of off-limits federal property that he calls "Wild Lands."

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., held a hearing last week to criticize Salazar's end-run around congressional authorization and the Wild Lands order's adverse impact on jobs and economic growth. Hastings was clearly furious, ending his opening statement with, "This administration should be on notice that unilateral decisions and orders to impose restrictive, job-destroying policies will be met with firm resistance."

Salazar told Bob Abbey, his director of the Bureau of Land Management, to get in that hearing and defend his order's legality. Big mistake. Hastings allowed Abbey to testify after the other nine witnesses were finished and proceeded to rip his testimony apart, with devastating cross-examination from Republican Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Don Young, R-Alaska. Hastings ended by forcing Abbey to admit that Salazar had "no statutory authority" to issue Order 3310.

Hastings presided over another hearing two days later, this one with Salazar as lead witness, nominally on spending and budget matters, but mostly angry grilling about oil drilling -- a repeat performance of an earlier Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

The House honed in on Salazar's placing large areas of the country off-limits to oil production. The Senate focused on Salazar's moratorium on drilling in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Salazar coolly dismissed all criticism with false claims and misleading statistics.

Lesson: Zealous environmentalists will never accept resource development, and utilitarians will never accept the cultish beliefs of Big Green.

Never mind that the Congressional Research Service has released a study, U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources, that shows America's combined recoverable natural gas, oil, and coal endowment is the largest on Earth, far larger than that of Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th), and Canada (6th) combined.

None of that matters to the Obama administration, which has blocked dozens of energy developments on federal lands and now forbids recovery of 83 percent of our oil resources.

There are as many rationalizations for this vandalism to America's capacity to do work as there are blocked areas, which include a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to designate a resource-rich area of 200,000 square miles as untouchable "critical habitat" for polar bears.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., grew tired of that and placed a hold on Obama's nominee to head the FWS, Dan Ashe. And thereby hangs a tale which we will get to in Friday's column.

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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