Tune into the State of the Union address tomorrow evening if you want to see a demonstration of election year political posturing. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to outline goals to ramp up domestic oil and natural gas production.
Obama's reelection campaign recently released a video to campaign supporters promising "big ideas" on topics such as energy. Select media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, received more specific details of the speech on background today, citing anonymous sources close to the White House.
In contrast, Obama's 2011 State of the Union speech focused on the President's intention to support clean energy programs. This year is more about shaping public perception as Republican opponents are accusing Obama of diminishing domestic energy production and harming the economy.
The speech will serve as a political foil against political arguments alleging that his policies are "killing jobs." The administration last week denied a permit for oil to be imported by TransCanada from oil sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Press reports indicate that Obama is anticipated to call for increased oil and gas production both on and offshore, and that the President will highlight how the U.S. has become more energy independent during his tenure in office.
Fuel is now the leading U.S. export, and President Obama has presided over a dramatic increase in domestic drilling. Whether that is a function of his administration's policies is an open question, but the President has favored an 'all of the above' approach to energy policy with significant investments being made into alternative energy and nuclear power.
A focus on natural gas drilling could mean that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might use kid gloves on the issue of Hydraulic fracturing, or "hydro-fracking," which is a controversial technique to extract natural gas from shale. Many environmentalists oppose hydro-fracking, and its adverse impacts on just now being fully understood.
Fracking firms are not required to disclose what chemicals are used in the process, and critics warn that acute environmental contamination is possible. An EPA investigation confirmed in November that chemicals that are used to mine natural gas tainted groundwater in a Wyoming town's aquifer.
The Administration can regulate the hydro-fracking for better environmental safety, but otherwise has limited authority to prevent the practice. So, Obama can in effect disarm his opponents politically without actually changing any policy positions.
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- Marcellus shale fail - estimates of natural gas reserves were overstated
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