President Obama’s speech at Georgetown University last week provided clarity, if there was ever any doubt, as to why the administration equivocates on approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, heel-drags on permits for natural gas exports and restricts federal lands from hydrocarbon development.
The president is doubling-down on policies unfriendly (to put it politely) to hydrocarbons: coal, natural gas and oil.
There is no small irony in the fact that, despite the policy head winds, U.S. coal exports have doubled since Obama became president. And two years ago America became a net exporter of refined petroleum products — gasoline and diesel — for the first time since 1949.
Those exports, when combined with a huge decrease in crude imports occasioned by massive growth in domestic oil production, are now driving down the nation’s economically debilitating trade deficit, nearly half of which came from oil imports.
But, given Obama’s stated willingness to make policy by executive fiat, maybe we should take note of a little-known provision in the still-in-force 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
The EPCA gives any president authority to restrict exports of coal, petroleum products, natural gas or petrochemical feedstock “under such terms and conditions as he determines to be appropriate and necessary.” No president, thus far, has ever invoked that authority.
We are likely to learn more about the EPCA, and how far Obama will go in his attempts to throttle back America’s hydrocarbon machinery, as soon as some brave company, likely in Texas, applies for permission to export large quantities of American crude oil.