Grow Jobs and Paychecks with Abundant Energy

In 1748, the little town of Manakin saw the opening of Virginia’s first commercial coal mine. William Hart dug America’s first natural gas well in New York in 1821. Daniel Halladay manufactured the first viable windmill in a Connecticut machine shop in 1854. George Bissell and Edwin Drake were the first to drill for oil in 1859. A team of geniuses brought the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction critical right after Thanksgiving 1942.

Today, thanks to technological advances like fracking and horizontal drilling, the United States produces more oil and natural gas than any other country in the world. It is an energy boom as historic as any we have seen before in our nation’s history. The only obstacle standing in the way of this progress is not technology, resource constraints, or any inability of industry to capitalize on the moment; it is government regulation of these innovations and the free-market forces that can take advantage of them.

Over time, bureaucrats and radical environmental ideologues have eroded the energy market by promoting and implementing policies that pick winners and losers. President Obama’s EPA imposes high energy prices and destroys jobs for no discernable environmental impact. His Administration slow walks permitting for extraction on federal lands and offshore. And despite the dearth of evidence of environmental concerns, the Administration has delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline time and time again. Today in America, it seems that the only glide path through the regulatory process is to apply for a green energy subsidy.

To understand the problem only in terms of environmental concerns is to dismiss the capacity for greed and indulgence by the members of the ruling class in Washington, DC. For all the people who lose out under the existing regulatory regime, there are plenty of winners, and they are not small producers struggling to get by. They are the well-connected—big solar, big wind, big ethanol—that know all the ins and outs of the regulatory process and have the resources to pay off the politicians who write the rules. It’s no coincidence that big agribusiness aggressively lobbies politicians who control ethanol policy; that Solyndra investor George Kaiser was a top bundler to President Obama; that the list of other green energy grant beneficiaries reads like the attendance list at a Vanity Fair party: Elon Musk, Larry Page, Al Gore, and various high-profile progressive political donors.

We know that’s not how a successful market works. Bureaucrats aren’t investment bankers, and friends of bureaucrats are unlikely to be the savviest of entrepreneurs. But government malfeasance toward American energy has even more disastrous effects than wasted money. In subsidizing these companies—even the successful ones—Washington distorts the market, tilting the playing field toward politically favored individuals and companies and away from the solutions that will benefit most Americans.

These trends—subsidies for some technologies, ham-fisted regulation for others—are not merely unfair to investors in energy sources disliked by government. They directly harm our nation by destroying thousands of jobs, hampering economic growth, and raising energy prices for Americans who can least afford it.

This is no accident. The President and his Department of Energy have explicitly stated that their policies raise energy prices and that they consider this to be a good thing because it will force their fellow citizens to use morally superior technologies and “nudge” them toward conservation. In this case, conservation means paying more money to use less energy.

It is simply not the concern of the federal government to promote one energy source over another or to force people to use a certain type of fuel. It is the government’s job to preserve a free society where these decisions can be made by the people themselves.

ReturntoTopButton DownloadPDFButton ReadNextSection