Heritage Foundation Distributes List Of Fallacies Regarding Obama’s Energy Policies


In an attempt to paint President Obama as bad for the U.S. economy, the Heritage Foundation recently released a list of the top ten ways in which the President’s energy policies are ‘destroying’ both the economy and our domestic energy production.

The list contains numerous falsehoods coupled with half-truths and out of context information.  When taken at face value, they give conservatives plenty to salivate over in the short time before the national election.  But those of us who have been paying attention can easily conclude that the statements made by Heritage have no basis in reality.

Before diving into the list, it is important to remember that Heritage has received millions of dollars from the dirty energy industry over the years, including such noted players as Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries.  They are also a hub for many prominent climate change skeptics.

Here’s Heritage’s list of Obama’s attacks against the energy economy, each one followed by the reality behind the situation:

Heritage: Slowing energy production on federal lands. According to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), energy production decreased 13 percent on federal lands in fiscal year (FY) 2011 when compared to FY 2010.

This statement is half true, but only because it omits years’ worth of data.  The whole truth is that energy production on federal lands has returned to its 2007 levels, after increasing by 13% in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  For several years under Obama, the production of energy on public lands actually increased.  On top of that, the Administration recently announced the sale of vast areas of public lands to the dirty energy industry for exploitation, which result in a dramatic increase in drilling and pollution on public lands.

Heritage: Failing to open areas to exploration and development. Where the Administration is destroying energy jobs on federal jobs, it is failing to create them by aggressively opening America’s federal lands and waters to exploration and development.

As pointed out after point #1, this claim is completely untrue on its face.  In addition to opening up public lands, the Administration has also increased oil drilling offshore, including in the BP oil-stained Gulf of Mexico.

Heritage has long been a proponent of increased offshore oil drilling, which would greatly benefit their own benefactors.

Heritage: Delaying a decision on Keystone XL pipeline.

I’ll give that to them – that’s technically true, but only after intense public protests forced the president to make a stand on the issue.  However, construction on the pipeline has already begun in Texas, making the President a null factor here, which makes Heritage’s point moot.

Heritage: Tripling down on energy subsidies. America’s addiction to energy subsidies began well before President Obama took office. According to the EIA, the U.S. spent $8.2 billion on energy subsidies in 1999. That spending more than doubled to $16.6 billion in 2007. Rather than eliminating subsidies for all energy sectors, President Obama tripled down by providing $53.2 billion in the 2009 stimulus bill for energy programs. We have a diverse, competitive energy sector, but government subsidies merely concentrate power in Washington. Energy subsidies merely shift labor and capital away from economically viable projects that would actually help grow our economy to those projects that have political preference.

Again, energy subsidies have indeed increased, and had Heritage stopped there they might have had at least one true statement on their list.  But they had to keep going, and couldn’t resist throwing in a few jabs to paint the president as a failure with his energy subsidy choices.  Mitt Romney did the same thing in the first debate.

However, Mitt Romney had the sense to walk those comments back.  Heritage has not.

As it turns out, the majority of the President’s clean energy subsidies have been hugely successful, and, contrary to Heritage’s claim, have been economically viable and have created jobs

Heritage: Stifling all energy projects in red tape. The government’s assault on energy projects is relentless. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce identified 351 energy projects stalled by “not in my backyard” lawsuits, regulatory red tape, and, of course, endless lawsuits from environmental activists who want to quash these projects.

Again, this claim was debunked earlier, as domestic energy production has increased, public land-drilling permitting has increased, and permitting has increased.  That’s hardly “ALL” energy projects being stifled.

Heritage: Shutting down coal. With 497 billion tons of recoverable coal in the U.S.—enough to provide electricity for 500 years at current consumption rates—coal has the potential to be an important resource long into the future. Regrettably, the Obama Administration has taken actions that significantly reduce coal’s share of America’s energy portfolio now and in the future.

False.  False.  False.  The Obama Administration has reported an increase in coal production for the last two years.  The decrease that occurred in 2009 was market-driven, not administrative red tape.

Also, Heritage must be wearing the rosiest spectacles around with its “500 years” of coal-fired electricity claim. For starters, they assume that 100% of coal reserves can be extracted economically, which it can’t. Not even the industry’s top cheerleaders at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity tout the ‘500 years’ figure, preferring the equally incorrect ‘250 years‘ figure (which Mitt Romney uses too). In reality, according to the National Academy of Sciences and other sources, the amount of economically recoverable coal would last anywhere from a few decades to about a century. And that allows zero consideration of what that would mean for the global climate, public health, and air and water pollution.

Heritage: Using extreme and unprecedented power. In an unprecedented move, in January 2011, the EPA revoked a water permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007 for a West Virginia mine. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down those EPA procedures, calling them “unreasonable.” The EPA also proposed a more stringent revision of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.

The clever language used by Heritage here is what gives them problems.  These statements are technically true, but these EPA decisions were not from Obama’s “extreme and unprecedented power,” but were the result of court decisions that forced the agency to enforce certain rules.  While there have been numerous Court cases reducing EPA power, there have been plenty giving the EPA power to enforce certain rules.

Heritage: Threatening hydraulic fracturing…Used in over 1 million wells in the U.S. for more than 60 years, fracking has been successfully used to retrieve more than 7 billion barrels of oil and over 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Just 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is enough to heat 15 million homes for one year. Despite the length of time that hydraulic fracturing has been used, and despite the fact that the states have effectively regulated fracking, the Administration is proposing regulations that would be both unnecessary and duplicative and drive away opportunities for the safe development of affordable, reliable energy.

This claim is laughable.  First of all, fracking has been linked to localized earthquakes for decades, something that an observer would hardly consider to be “successful.”  Second, there is barely any regulation at all on fracking wells, even at the state level (as Heritage claims).  The industry is able to operate with a stunning lack of oversight of any kind, as explained in DeSmog’s Fracking the Future report.

Heritage: Shutting down Yucca Mountain. The Obama Administration says it wants to pursue nuclear power, but its rhetoric does not match its nuclear policy. Its decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project without any technical or scientific data is a case in point… Yet the Obama Administration decided to terminate the program without having anything to replace it. Absent any nuclear waste disposal options, the U.S. simply will not significantly expand nuclear energy.

Again, history betrays Heritage on this one.  Earlier this year, the NRC actually approved construction of the first new nuclear reactor in three decades, and energy supplied from nuclear power plants has been steadily increasing since Obama took office. 

So that brings us to number 10:

Heritage: Attacking on consumer choice. The federal government finalized new automobile efficiency rules today for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025. The rules require an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) in 2025. The government acknowledges that increased fuel efficiency standards will increase the upfront cost of a vehicle. Although the government also estimates that higher prices will be more than offset by gasoline savings, generally these cost savings assume that the buyer keeps the vehicle for its entire lifespan, which usually doesn’t happen. Further, consumers tend to drive new, fuel-efficient vehicles more, which reduces the estimated price, oil, and emissions savings. Higher prices reduce demand and force people to hold onto their older vehicles longer. Reduced demand means fewer cars produced, which means automakers have to shed jobs.

I actually tackled this lie when it first surfaced in late August.  Heritage’s claims are once again proven false on this one, as estimates show that not only will the Administration’s new fuel standards save consumers billions of dollars, but they will also create as many as 700,000 new jobs – not kill jobs.  On top of that, every major auto manufacturer operating in America signed off on the standards, so that would have to be one heck of a conspiracy if the goal was to eliminate consumer choice.

And there you have it – in a list of ten attacks against the president, the Heritage Foundation couldn’t even provide a single honest point.  Perhaps they’ll take a cue from Mitt Romney and retract their erroneous list, but I won’t be holding my breath. 

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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