Obama Administration kicks the oil-and-gas industry while it is down

Does burnishing a uber-green legacy matters more than saving jobs and the economy?

For the past six years, the oil and gas industry has served as a savior to the Obama presidency by providing the near-lone bright spot in economic growth. Increased U.S. oil-and-gas production has created millions of well-paying jobs and given us a new energy security. The president often peppers his speeches with braggadocio talk about our abundant supplies and decreased dependence on foreign oil.

oilprotestsSo now that the economic powerhouse faces hard times, how does the Administration show its appreciation for the oil-and-gas industry boon to the economy over the past six years?

By introducing a series of regulations—at least nine in total, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)—that will put the brakes on the U.S. energy boom through higher operating costs and fewer incentives to drill on public lands.

The WSJ states: “Mr. Obama and his environmental backers say new regulations are needed to address the impacts of the surge in oil and gas drilling.”

U.S. oil production, according to the Financial Times: “caught Saudi Arabia by surprise.” The kingdom sees that U.S. shale and Canadian oil-sand development “encroached on OPEC’s market share” and has responded with a challenge to high-cost sources of production by upping its output—adding to the global oil glut and, therefore, dropping prices.

Most oil-market watchers expect temporary low-priced oil, with prediction of an increase in the second half of 2015, and some saying 2016. North Dakota Petroleum saudiCouncil President Ron Ness believes “We’re in an energy war.” He sees “the price slump could last 16 months or even one to two years as U.S. supply stays strong, global demand remains weak, and OPEC continues to challenge U.S. production.” However, Ibrahim al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, recently said: “We have the ability to endure low oil prices over the medium term of up to 5 years, even if it means delving into fiscal reserves to cover a large deficit.”

While no one knows how long the low-price scenario will last—geopolitical risk is still a factor.

Many oil companies are already reevaluating exploration, reining in costs, and cutting jobs and/or wages. “In the low price circumstance like today,” Jean-Marie Guillermou, the Asian head of the French oil giant Total, explained: “you do the strict minimum required.”

In December, the WSJ reported: “Some North American companies have said they plan to cut their capital spending next year and dial back on exploring for new oil.” It quotes Tim Dove, President and COO for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.: “We are seeking cost reductions from all our suppliers.”

Last month, Enbridge Energy Partners said it has “laid off some workers in the Houston area”—an action the Houston Chronicle (HC) on December 12 called: “the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.” The HC continued: “Other key energy companies have also announced layoffs in recent days as oil tumbles to its lowest price in years. Halliburton on Thursday said it would slash 1,000 jobs in the Eastern Hemisphere as part of a $75 million restructuring. BP on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate job cuts and pare back its oil production business amid crumbling oil prices.” Halliburton said: “we believe these job eliminations are necessary in order to work through this market environment.”

Civeo, a lodging and workforce accommodation company for the oil-and-gas industry, has cut 30% of its Canadian workforce and 45% of its U.S. workforce. President and CEO Bradley Dodson said: “As it became evident during the fourth quarter that capital spending budgets among the major oil companies were going to be cut, we began taking steps to reduce marketed room capacity, control costs, and curtail discretionary capital expenditures.”

I have warned the industry that while they have remained relatively unscathed by harsh regulations—such as those placed on electricity generation—their time would come. Now, it has arrived. The WSJ concurs: “In its first six years, the Administration released very few regulations directly affecting the oil-and-gas industry and instead rolled out several significant rules aimed at cutting air pollution from the coal and electric-utility sectors.”

According to the WSJ: “Some of the rules have been in the works for months or even years.” But that doesn’t mean the Administration should introduce them now when the industry is already down—after all, the Administration delayed Obamacare mandates due to the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

Greg Guidry, executive vice president at Shell, recently said that he doesn’t want the EPA to “impose unnecessary costs and burden on an industry challenged now by a sustained low-price environment.”

harperDifferent from Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it. Under pressure from the environmental lobby to increase regulations on the oil-and-gas industry, he, during a question session on the floor of the House of Commons in December, said: “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy—it would be crazy economic policy—to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” He added: “We are not going to kill jobs and we are not going to impose a carbon tax.”

Introducing the new rules now kick the industry while it is down and shows that President Obama either doesn’t get it, or he cares more about burnishing his environmental legacy than he does about American jobs and economic growth.

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(A version of this content was originally published at Breitbart.com)

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About the Author: Marita Noon

Marita Noon

CFACT policy analyst Marita Noon is the author of Energy Freedom.,

  • David A Simpson

    Sweet Baby Cheeze-it I’m getting tired of inflammatory headlines that are not supported in the text. CFACT seems to be getting worse about this every day. This article was pretty worthless on its own, but with the headline it falls well below the standards for “worthless” in to “negative value” category. Why the heck did you not list the 6 new regulations and describe their impact instead of rehashing a partially understood description of the current state of the industry?

    • 1digger

      Since the truth hurts, perhaps you can understand the reality of further rules and regulations on any industry, business or person by the government; it’s burdensome; period. It meddles in areas where government has no business by picking the winners and losers, thus in this case it will increase the cost of doing business as well as the cost of living. So while the Administration is bending over backwards to extend openness to Third World dictators in Cuba, Venezuela, Iran by backing off of sanctions, they see no problem in imposing them upon the American people. We have an enemy from within and he’s in the White House supported by the low information voters and Democrats alike. Is it so hard for liberals to understand the detrimental effects of their anti-economic policies? It’s really basic economics and yet they’re always on a seek and destroy mission against success whether it’s in business or individually. It’s envy and amounts to the failed efforts of wealth redistribution to the non-creators of wealth, i.e. dependent leeches upon society; that is those that can work but won’t or choose to suck off the public tit.

      • Christopher Mathieu

        I agree completely.Obama brags about the increased drilling for energy in the U.S under his administration.What the bald faced liar fails to mention is that most of the drilling was done on privately owned lands which he and his cronies had nothing to do with.

      • David A Simpson

        1 digger,
        It would be nice if you had read my post instead of just attacking me. I spend more time and effort fighting EPA regulations on the Oil & Gas industry than anyone I know. My efforts on the Clean Air Act, Subpart OOOO (NSPS) resulted in a cost savings to the industry on the order of a half trillion dollars over 10 years (did you know that the EPA original draft of OOOO mandated that every gas well have a plunger-lift installed even if they had a downhole pump or were able to free flow? Not many people do because the group I was on was able to convince the EPA that it was a bad idea. Did you know that they were going to require registering a unique identifier code for every pneumatic controller installed on a gas well? We showed them how much work that would create for them and they backed off).

        My complaint was (and remains) with the paper’s author not describing what the “kicking while down” actually entails. What are the 6 new regulations and what (in broad terms, this is a non-technical article) they entail. My other complaint was that the text of the article did not support the hyperbole of the title. I’ve had a couple of editors lately that tried to impose this prose-inflation on some of my articles and I said “no” and got titles that were supported in the articles. The author of this mishmash obviously didn’t have anything new to say so she inflated her prose to cover it up.

        CFACT has gotten worse and worse about that over the last year and I want them to stop.