Does Federalism Mean Anything?

Our system of government is supposed to involve a division between the federal government and the states with federal authority being limited. President Obama’s decision to omit leases on the Atlantic Coast from the Five Year leasing plan shows once again that Washington has no respect for states rights or the concept of federalism.

This disregard for state prerogatives is nothing new. Starting in the 1980s, Congress routinely imposed restrictions on offshore exploration and the first President Bush imposed a moratorium that continued until Bush 43 removed it. This has been a case of rhetoric and environmental ideology over riding facts and economics. Between 1969 and 2011, the year of the Deepwater Horizon accident, the safety record for offshore exploration and production was truly outstanding—99.9% according to the Energy Information Administration.

Environmentalists and now the President have used fear to thwart the economic best interest of the nation. As the late, H L Mencken once observed, the aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless array of hobgoblins, most of which are imaginary. As a result a campaign of fear, our nation has imported far more oil than it had to.

Coastal states from Virginia south have made clear that they want to develop their offshore resources because oil and gas development will bring investment that creates jobs and will improve their economic well being. The just released Five-Year Plan denies them that right. Washington elites and bureaucrats, including the President think that they know best how those coastal states should manage their resources and economies. Looked at objectively, that is an extreme form of arrogance.

The President is using the Five-Year Plan as part of his war on fossil fuels and to create his legacy as the world’s leader on combatting climate change. He has acted on illusion at the expense of our economic well being. The argument put forth by the Secretary of Interior that drilling would be adverse to commercial and military interests is shallow at best.
Offshore platforms have an adverse impact but many more wind turbines wouldn’t? That clearly does not pass the straight face test.

The fact oil and gas prices are at historic low is irrelevant because companies that make multi-billion dollar decisions do so on the basis of a long term planning horizon and the likely prices that will exist over that time frame. Oil prices are cyclical. That history and the willingness of companies to invest their money should demonstrate the economic viability of offshore development.

The political chaos that exists today is clear evidence that our federal government system is broken and dysfunctional. The time has come to return more power back to the states and shrink the size of government and lighten its heavy hand.

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