The oil boys from Houston must be wriggling with delight after President Obama’s official jobs council called for an “all-in approach” to energy policy that includes expanded oil-and-gas drilling as well as more pipelines.
“We should allow more access to oil, natural gas and coal opportunities on federal lands,” argued the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in a 72 page report, which was released yesterday, called “Road Map to Renewal“.
Although the report does not specifically mention the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, there is an explicit endorsement of more pipelines.
“Now more than ever, the jobs and economic and energy security benefits of these energy projects [pipelines] require us to tackle the issues head-on and to expeditiously, though cautiously, move forward on projects that can support hundreds of thousands of jobs,” says the report.
In adopting that kind of language, the Jobs Council is echoing the rhetoric coming from the boys at the American Petroleum Institute.
The apparent endorsement of Keystone left the White House on the back foot.
“Well, first of all, the Jobs Council wasn’t talking about Keystone specifically,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney at his daily briefing. “The Jobs Council was talking about the importance of expanding domestic oil and gas production, a goal this president shares and has expounded upon at length, and has taken action as a policy matter to demonstrate his commitment to.”
The Republicans were quick to seize on the report: “The President’s Jobs Council today confirmed what House Republicans have known all along, that American energy production will spur job creation and strengthen our national security,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in a statement.
The Job Creation Panel’s recommendations also echo sentiments by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia in the GOP’s weekly radio address last weekend: “It’s no secret that the number one issue facing our country is jobs. So the number one goal of the Republicans for 2012 is to continue to make it easier for American small businesses to create jobs,” Isakson said. “We’ll accomplish this by focusing on three things: fundamental tax reform, regulatory reform and energy security.”
Also controversially the report calls for “safe and responsible” natural-gas extraction from shale formations, which could be seen as an endorsement of fracking, although many people argue that current fracking techniques are neither safe nor responsible.
But the endorsement comes hot on the heels of another one from last week where the Obama administration gave another statement in favour of fracking in a report, Investing in America.
Although last week’s report did add the caveat that “Appropriate care must to be taken to ensure that America’s natural resources are extracted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner with the safeguards in place to protect public health and safety.”
In response to the Jobs Panel, Obama pledged to “push as hard as possible” on the recommendations but also sought to dampen expectations.
“Obviously this year is an election year, and so getting Congress focused on some of these issues may be difficult.”
One difficult decision Obama has to make is on Keystone XL. He has five weeks left.
He should just say “no” once and for all.