3 Ways Obama Is Pissing Off the Energy Industry

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the United States on March 21, 2012 in Boulder City, Nevada. Obama is on a four-state tour promoting his energy policies. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has been between a rock and a hard pace for much of his presidency when it comes to the environment. Environmentalists often say they’re disappointed in his efforts, that he promised changes, but isn’t doing enough to curtail emissions and reduce the progression of global warming. On the other hand, he’s successfully angered much of the energy industry at one time or another, and recent news is no different. Let’s look at a few actions he’s taken that have been particularly inflammatory, their effects, and what the energy industry had to say.

Regulation of fracking on public lands

The first item on our list has to be the most recent fracking (hydrolic fracturing) rules put in place by the administration. Obama announced the rule changes which will effect tens of thousands of fossil-fuel wells, according to the Washington Post, but these will be confined to public lands and federal land drilling. Still, a majority of fracking is actually done on private land, so while it will certainly have an effect, the new rules don’t apply to a large amount of fracking operations — only about one-fourth.

Before we look at what the regulations are, here’s a quick introduction on fracking works, and why there are some concerned with the safety and regulation of it.

The new rules would place added responsibility on fracking operations, requiring additional documentation and transparency from drilling companies. It also “strengthens existing rules related to well construction to ensure integrity and address developments in technology,” and places more protections around water zones in conjunction with local government.

“We need to put in place standards that encourage innovation, that help define the rules of the road for the industry, and that help protect communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who helped work on new regulations published Friday. “Our decades-old regulations do not contemplate current techniques in which hydraulic fracturing is increasingly complex and is coupled with relatively new horizontal drilling technology in larger-scale operations that reach greater depths,” she said.

“The new mandates on hyraulic fracturing by the federal government, however, are the complete opposite of common-sense,” argued Barry Russell, Independent Petroleum Association of America president, according to the Washington Post. He went on to argue that the industry is vital for the American economy, but that currently can’t afford this kind of strain, especially while the nation is still recovering. As in the past, environmentalists aren’t pleased, with some arguing that the rules should have been more extreme in order to make as great a change as is needed.

Keystone XL pipeline

The Keystone XL pipeline has been an ongoing battle between Obama, the oil industry, and members of Congress from oil and gas industry states, particularly Louisiana — where the issue was a major midterm topic. The video below, from the National Sierra Club, explains the issue from the perspective of an environmental argument. It’s quite biased against the pipeline, but is a good explanation of that viewpoint.

On the other hand, we have arguments from Obama not just on the environment, but on jurisdictional issues. Initially he felt that the decision should be made within the Nebraska court, where it was being heard by state authorities. More recently, after the case was thrown out, he has said that the State Department needs to make considerations before going forward. As a result, he’s vetoed multiple pieces of legislation from Congress to push construction forward.

Proponents of the pipeline argue that it will create jobs and have an important effect on the economy. “The Keystone bill decides the future for many issues,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), according to The Times-Picayune, going on to argue that if the pipeline isn’t built, Canada will ship the oil to China, and “quite likely we will buy the refined products the Chinese then produce.”

Obama’s Ozone regulation

Above, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Il.) argues in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation standards in 2014. The fight against the EPA’s rules has continued into this year, with proponents like Quigley arguing that it’s an important step to protect the health of citizens and the environment of the U.S. The rise in asthma and other respiratory problems is given as one area that would be mitigated by greater restriction.

There’s also the counter argument, however, that the regulations hurt not just businesses (and therefore workers), but that they also hurt middle class family by upping energy costs and hurting the job market. “If President Obama is serious about lifting up the middle class and closing the income inequality gap, the last thing his administration should do is threaten jobs and our energy and manufacturing renaissance with unnecessary new regulations,” said Howard Feldrman, the director of regulatory affairs with the American Petroleum Institute, according to The Hill.

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